Task Force on Well-Being in the Law unveiled

The Michigan Supreme Court and State Bar of Michigan have announced creation of the Task Force on Well-Being in the Law. 

Formation of the panel comes in response to studies indicating that lawyers, judges and law students suffer from higher-than-average rates of problem drinking and substance use, anxiety, depression, and stress, according to court officials.

Members include representation from the judiciary, law schools, regulatory agencies, bar associations, law firms, and allies in the field of mental health.

“Well-being is an indispensable part of a lawyer’s duty of competence, and each step we take toward greater well-being will ultimately help maintain public confidence in the legal profession and increase access to justice,” said Justice Megan K. Cavanagh, who will represent the court on the task force.

The panel will work to identify stakeholders and the role they can play in reducing the stresses to mental health in the legal profession; eliminating the stigma associated with help-seeking behaviors; educating judges, lawyers, and law students on well-being issues; and taking incremental steps to instill greater well-being in the profession.

“We know that young lawyers in the first 10 years of practice are particularly at risk,” Cavanagh added. “The time to act is now. Valuing well-being contributes to organizational success throughout our legal system, influences ethics and professionalism, and is the right thing to do to help our colleagues and better serve the public.” 

Announcement of the task force coincided with Well-Being Week in Law and was an opportunity for Michigan’s legal community members to learn more about resources available and how to support their well-being. 

Help is also available through the State Bar of Michigan Lawyers and Judges Assistance Program (LJAP), which offers virtual support groups, clinical assessments, training on practicing wellness, and referrals to mental health providers. 

Additional information on the program is available by calling  800-996-5522, e-mailing contactLJAP@michbar.org, or visiting michbar.org/generalinfo/ljap.
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Members of the Michigan Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being (organized by stakeholder category):

• Michigan Supreme Court and the State Bar of Michigan
  Justice Megan K. Cavanagh,  Michigan Supreme Court
  Dana Warnez, president, State Bar of Michigan
  Peter Cunningham, executive director, State Bar of Michigan
  Andrea Crumback, deputy legal counsel, Michigan Supreme Court
  Molly Ranns, director, Lawyers and Judges Assistance Program, State Bar of Michigan

• Judiciary
  Judge Donald Allen, 55th District Court, Mason
  Chief Judge Carol Kuhnke, Washtenaw County Trial Court
  Judge Curtis Bell, Kalamazoo County Probate Court
  Chief Judge Mabel Mayfield, Berrien County Trial Court

• Law Schools
  Abijah Taylor, assistant dean for Student and Academic Affairs, Michigan State University College of Law
  Margaret Hannon, clinical professor of law, University of Michigan Law School
  Amy Timmer, associate dean of Academic & Student Affairs, Western Michigan University Cooley Law School
  Ieisha Humphrey, director of Student and Faculty Services, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law  
  Rebecca Robichaud, director of Clinical Education, Wayne State University Law School

• Law Students
  Adriana Lopez-Torres, incoming co-president of the Latinx Law Student Association, University of Michigan Law School

• Mental Health
  Kelly Arenz, DO, program director, Family Medicine Residency, St. Joseph Mercy Livingston

• Laurie Orlando, attorney; licensed professional counselor, Orlando Counseling Services PLLC

• Law Firms
  Sean Siebigteroth, The Williams Firm; chair, Lawyers and Judges Assistance Committee, and Member, Representative Assembly, State Bar of Michigan
  Katherine M. Stanley, fair housing education manager, Legal Services of Eastern Michigan; advisory board member, Crim Fitness Foundation Mindfulness Initiative
  Jennifer Colagiovanni, Wachler & Associations PC; founder, Michigan Chapter of the Mindfulness in Law Society
  Richard E. Hillary II, Miller Johnson

• Young Lawyers
  Kristina Bilowus, assistant director for Career Services, MSU College of Law; chair, Young Lawyers Section, State Bar of Michigan

• Regulation
  Wendy Neeley, deputy director, Michigan Attorney Discipline Board
  Kimberly Uhuru, deputy administrator, Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission
  Judge Pablo Cortes, 62A District Court, Wyoming; Member, Judicial Tenure Commission

• Tribal Courts
  Judge Matthew Fletcher, chief justice of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, appellate justice for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, and Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi

• Supreme Court Administrative Office (SCAO)
  Monique Smith, Human Resources Director
  Staff from Field Services and Councils/Commissions

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