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UCLI CLE Draws Largest Audience in 2024 So Far

By June 27, 2024News

Session 2 of the 2024 UCLI CLE Series was held on Tuesday, June 25, 2024 via Zoom. The CLE was titled, “Procrastinator Series – What Affects a Lawyer’s Competence?: A Discussion of Rule 1 and Its Comments”. The panel discussion was part of the Utah State Bar’s June “Procrastinator Series” to coincide with the approaching CLE compliance deadline, and was moderated by Jonathan Hafen of Parr, Brown, Gee & Loveless. Jonathan is also a UCLI board member and is also chair of both the UCLI and Utah State Bar CLE committees. He was joined by five panelists Jacob Kent, Director of Litigation, Utah Legal Services, Aida Neimarlija, General Counsel, Larry H. Miller Real Estate, Jessica Ramirez, Attorney, Kirkland & Ellis, Olivia Rossi, Attorney, Office of Guardian ad Litem, and Erin Strahm, Attorney, Utah State Court Self-Help Center. The event was attended by over 800 attorneys who were able to hear from the panelists and their rich variety of work experiences and environments about how to manage well-being and build a sense of community and belonging in our legal workplaces. Managing these aspects of our environment is vital to an attorney’s competence to practice law.

The starting point of the discussion is comment nine to rule 1 of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct published in 2023 which states: “(9)Lawyers should be aware that their mental, emotional, and physical well-being may impact their ability to represent clients and, as such, is an important aspect of maintaining competence to practice law and compliance with the standards of professionalism and civility. Resources supporting lawyer well-being are available through the Utah State Bar.” Each attorney shared about their workplaces, the unique opportunities and challenges in each setting, and the things they are doing to help support attorney wellbeing and community building.

Jacob Kent shared about Utah Legal Services and the important work they do. This work involves clients in crisis, many of whom are also experiencing domestic violence and other traumatic circumstances. The struggle for attorneys in this setting is to not let that trauma become transitive to the attorneys’ personal lives and mental and emotional well-being. For supervisors in this setting, regular check-ins with attorneys are key to staying on top of morale and well-being. They also hold regular get togethers outside of work to connect on non-work topics and hobbies.

Olivia Rossi shared similar sentiments working in the Guardian ad Litem’s office with clients who are all in various degrees of crisis. She mentioned how this setting requires another level of competence to meet the needs of clients who are often young and unable to advocate on their own behalf. In her experience it is key to have other outlets to release stress. Crafting is a go to for many attorneys outside of work hours to keep balance and wellbeing.

Jessica Ramirez presented the challenges and rewards of working in BigLaw. Ironically, these offices with hundreds of attorneys across several offices can sometimes create environments of isolation and loneliness. The Salt Lake office of Kirkland & Ellis has done a great job to combat this and create teams that operate collaboratively. Among other things, they provide opportunities for young attorneys to take ownership of parts of cases to begin to gain experience and competence as their careers progress.

Erin Strahm highlighted the great work attorneys at the Utah State Courts Self-Help Center (Center) provide to the State of Utah, and unrepresented litigants in particular. The Center also works with many who are in crisis. They also have the added dynamic of all working remotely from various places throughout the Wasatch Front. This work setup has the potential to be isolating. The Center does a good job in their work structure holding multiple check-in meetings each week, and a running group chat to provide ways for attorneys to stay connected. This has been vital for team cohesiveness and morale, providing means for attorneys to ask questions and provide encouragement to one another.

Aida Neimarlija shared her experience in her current in-house position, and also had the chance to share about her time as a solo practitioner earlier in her career. A similar refrain in each of these work settings is they often present a workplace with few attorneys to readily reach out for help and camaraderie. Aida has found it very helpful and rewarding to get involved with bar committees and other legal affinity groups and associations as a way to give back, and to build a supportive community of attorneys to turn to in times of need. Aida also shared a great analogy of plastic and glass balls to explain prioritization and balance in career and life. We are constantly juggling responsibilities and sometimes we need to make sure certain things don’t fall, and also let some things drop at times. The key is to discern what is less important (plastic) and what is non-negotiable (glass). This is different for everyone, and it’s important for every attorney to figure out which is which.

The panel provided an enriching and timely discussion for all attendees to focus and refocus on wellbeing and competence. Jonathan Hafen concluded by echoing a comment from the audience to remember that although we work in an adversarial system, attorneys do not need to be adversaries. This is a good reminder to not only be aware of our own well-being, but also help attorneys around us be their most healthy and competent selves. We extend a large thank you to our moderator, panelists, and the Utah State Bar CLE office for the great CLE. We also extend our thanks to the overwhelming number of participants who joined us. We hope you will join us for our next CLE on August 20, 2024. This session will help to demystify the judicial application and selection process. We look forward to seeing you then.

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