Interview to Mª Eugenia Gay Rosell

Interview to Mª Eugenia Gay Rosell

President of the Barcelona Bar Association

Vice President of the General Council of Spanish Bar Associations

 

A female benchmark in Barcelona’s legal profession

I had the pleasure of interviewing Maria Eugenia Gay Rosell, President of the Barcelona Bar Association (ICAB). Before getting into the matter, I would like to explain briefly who our first interviewee is.

Maria Eugenia graduated in Law from the University of Barcelona-CEU Abat Oliba 20 years ago. Later, she completed her Master’s Degree in Mediation at the ICAB. She decided to study Law and practice as a lawyer “because of her personal vocation and commitment to the defence of the rights and freedoms of citizens”.

She has been a member of this corporation since 2000. Apart from being the president and a lawyer, Maria Eugenia is the mother of four children: Álvaro, Gabriel, Jose María and Víctor.

On behalf of ISMA, I would like to thank the President and her communication team for their attention and kindness in managing the interview reproduced below.

Emotions

After setting up the Mental Health Institute of Legal Professions, I have had the opportunity to speak with many lawyers in order to get to know their day to day lives. Many of them agree that they cannot express their emotions in front of their clients or colleagues because they are afraid of being discriminated against or of being considered weak professionals.

1. Why do you think lawyers are afraid of expressing their emotions in front of their clients or peers?

Citizens turn to lawyers for advice, to resolve their conflicts and to defend their interests before the courts.

As this is a professional relationship, the lawyer has a formal relationship with the client. That’s not at odds with empathy. It is essential to put yourself in the other person’s skin. Precisely, when a case comes to us in the office we take the side of the people and empathize with him or her to see what is the best possible solution to the problem he or she poses.

Attorney-client relationships are based on trust and in some cases even lead to a friendly relationship, due to the fact that we become “part of the family”.

The nature of the profession means that we do not usually express personal emotions with the client. But that’s not at odds with humane treatment. Precisely because we work with such sensitive material as people’s rights, we have to have a special cure, both in form and in substance, for the cases we handle.

Advocacy is made up of human beings!

With co-workers whom we often spend more hours than with our own family, we do express more of our emotions: how a judgment has gone, how we feel about our children’s success, the difficulty of a case, the discomfort we may have from having little free time… With the client it costs more because, sometimes, we have the perception that explaining our emotions makes us more vulnerable or that we may lose prestige.

In any case, not expressing our perception of life with clients would not qualify it as “fear”. Lawyers empathize and show solidarity with their clients, and in this area, the personal emotions of the lawyer take second place.

2. I often get the perception that certain organizations only want “robot lawyers”. That they do not feel, that they do not openly express what they feel, but that they limit themselves to executing orders from their superiors. How could we humanize our profession?

Law is an exciting and always changing profession. The laws are constantly changing, we have deadlines to present the writings, trials in our city, but also far from home … Often, it seems that we do a marathon to get to all the things that we have to do. Lawyers always have the feeling of running from one place to another.

I believe that a more humane professional practice is possible, as well as learning to use emotions on our behalf, to discover new ways of managing demands and difficulties in the office, in trials and in negotiations with opposing lawyers.

I think that it is precisely the new technologies that will help us to achieve this.

There are already robots in some law firms, especially in the U.S. that are dedicated to more mechanical tasks. Likewise, new technologies will help us to speed up the procedures, so that we will gain time of “added value” that will allow us to exercise the profession more calmly and taking more account of personal issues.

Also, I want to vindicate once again the empathy of advocacy towards clients and that lawyers are human beings who have emotions, who like to do activities and share them with our closest friends. Thanks to new technologies we also share our activity in social networks, in my case, especially through Twitter.

3. I would like you to explain to me, from your experience as a practicing lawyer, a couple of cases in which you have experienced any of the following emotions (joy, sadness, anger, disgust, surprise or fear):

The lawyers who dedicate ourselves to Civil Procedural Law have experienced all the feelings…Joy, sadness, euphoria, disappointment…depending on the result obtained, it generates one emotion or another.

In my case, I deal with Family Law issues and there are very complicated moments. Accompany these people in their processes and finally get a favorable or unfavorable resolution to their interests or those of their children affects you, and a lot. Advocacy is a living profession, which helps citizens, which means sharing their feelings and emotions.

Well-being

4. Are you planning, from the College, to create a Well-Being Committee, following the Anglo-Saxon model, to analyze issues related to the well-being and emotional intelligence of Barcelona’s lawyers, as well as to provide help and training to its members?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

This vision means that lawyers have to learn how to cope with the normal stresses of life, we have to be aware of our capacities and limits in order to work productively and fruitfully.

Nowadays, one of the aspects that lawyers must face is the high percentage of stress, due to the emotional burden that our work entails. On the one hand, there is the relationship with the client, which involves listening to mostly problematic situations almost every day. On the other hand, it has to inform of the decisions, whether they are favourable or not. We also suffer from the slow functioning of the Administration of Justice, and case deadlines…

We train lawyers who are committed to high technical standards. We work in a constantly changing environment, as a result of the legislative and social changes that take place constantly. We also have to adapt to new technologies and new habits that arise as a result of this. Therefore, through the Service Occupation and Career Guidance (SOOP) of the ICAB we address issues related to the welfare of the legal profession, with the aim of helping our members to cope with emotions because they are a very important part of the exercise of the profession. Learning to manage and know them allows us to take a more empathic approach with the client and to generate a bond of trust.

The ICAB has always wanted to be a pioneer and a point of reference, so the creation of the Well-Being Committee can be studied and evaluated.

5. There are companies that are applying the so-called “digital disconnection” so that their workers have a better welfare. What do you think?

New technologies have allowed us to live hyperconnected and pending today. I’m an advocate of family reconciliation. That is why, for example, the Boards of Government of the Barcelona Bar Association, which were held in the afternoon, have moved on to midday. If we want to build a more humane society I think we must be clear that, apart from work, there must be a space for social relations, for family life, and so on. With good organization and management skills many things can be achieved. This also entails the right to digital disconnection, although in some areas it is easier than in others.

Gender equality in the legal professions

Your commitment to equal opportunities between lawyers is evident: since your mandate, you have presented the “Comprehensive Equality Plan”; you have launched the campaign “Every day is March 8”; you have held the 1st Women Business & Justice European Forum, and you have incorporated the gender perspective in your training programs.

ISMA fully supports this magnificent task. It should be noted that one of our objectives is to break the existing glass ceiling in the legal sector and claim 50 to 50 in the partnership of law firms.

6. In this sense, is it necessary to effectively implement a quota system in the boards of directors of law firms and in the highest jurisdictional instances?

Yes, Advocacy has to work to facilitate the visibility of women in all spheres: social, economic, political, technological. We have the challenge of vindicating female talent, promoting the role of professional and business women in today’s society, promoting equal opportunities and parity policies and breaking the “glass ceiling” that unfortunately still exists in our society, as currently only 19% of women are on the boards of directors of IBEX-35 companies.

We have to believe in equality and work in a coordinated way to achieve a greater participation of women in power scenarios, until we reach a 50/50 parity participation. That is why we have to change the models of governance.

With the desire that the Barcelona Bar Association be one of the engines of this social change, the Board of Governors that I preside, in addition to being equal, has committed to work to achieve effective equality between men and women, starting with the legal profession.

7. Do you think that the quota system is the definitive mechanism for guaranteeing real and effective equality between lawyers within the law firms?

I believe that the quota system is a transitional system that must be maintained as long as there is no social change that makes the glass ceiling’ a concept to be sought in newspaper libraries. A workplace has to be for the person most qualified to do so. As long as there are obstacles that hinder women’s access to management positions, it will be necessary to maintain the quota between men and women in order to value female talent, which is not valued in a natural way.

I wish you a speedy recovery

I wish you a speedy recovery

Dear Paul Rawlinson, Global Chair of Baker McKenzie:

After knowing your temporary medical leave, I would like to tell you several things:

First of all, I wish you a speedy recovery. Your health must be your priority as of now. It is essential that you take a rest. You are the captain of this big law firm, and employees and clients need you to be okay. Above all, your family.

Secondly, I want to congratulate you on your bravery and humanity to make this history public. According to Baker Mckenzie’s official statement, which has been spread by different British and American legal media, exhaustion has been the cause of your temporary medical leave.

Considering that there is a substantial social stigma about mental health, the fact of recognizing your problem can help many lawyers not to be afraid of talking about mental health issues.

Thirdly, although you already have doctors who take care of you, I encourage you to follow LawCare’s activities. This non-profit organization, which is chaired by Mrs. Elizabeth Rimmer, provides many useful tools with British legal professionals who need help.

Lastly, if I were a CEO of a big company, I could assure that you would be my lawyer. You deserve my respect, loyalty, admiration, and trust.

Best regards,

Manel Atserias Luque

President of the “Instituto de Salud Mental de la Abogacía – Mental Health Institute of Legal Professions (ISMA-MHILP)

The importance of lawyers well-being

The importance of lawyers well-being

Mckenzie Cross

Staff

Note: The author makes reference to the American legal market

Over the past few months, professionals have become more aware of the mental health issues within the legal profession. A rise in depression, anxiety, and stress is leading to worry among the community of lawyers. A worldwide leader, Paul Rawlinson, took a leave of absence in early October this year. Rawlinson was the chairman of the successful Baker McKenzie Firm. He has been chair for two years now and during that period he has witnessed a growth within the firm. Baker McKenzie announced an eight percent gross revenue increase from 2017-2018. Not only gross revenue raised, they reported a significant fourteen percent increase in profits per equity partner (1). Seemingly successful, Rawlinson’s announcement to take a leave surprised people among the community,however, with success comes stress. The firm issued a statement stating, “ Baker McKenzie Global Chair Paul Rawlinson has announced that he will be stepping back from his day-to-day responsibilities and taking temporary leave to focus on a personal medical issue.Based on the advice of his doctor, in response to medical issues caused by exhaustion, Paul has decided to take a step back from Firm leadership and client responsibilities to make his health and recovery his immediate priority.” (2) A leave of exhaustion might not seem like a dying need to take mental illness seriously, however, put it together with someone as important and successful as Rawlinson and other cases of mental illness among lawyers and it becomes a larger issue.

October 14th, 2018 in Los Angeles, California, well known lawyer Gabriel MacConaill was found in his car dead from a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Same as Rawlinson, MacConaill was very successful in his career. In 2009 McConaill, joined Sidley Austin’s Los Angeles practice. By 2014, he had made partner and was building an impressive client base. Seemingly happy and successful it came as a shock again to see just how much he was struggling with inside his mind. Mental illness is not something recognized very often among the legal profession yet it is an increasingly large problem.

August of this year another suicide among a partner was committed by Bruce Wickersham. He was a partner at DLA Piper’s Boston office. Suicides are happening all over the country among lawyers. In Chicago Stewart Dolin, an M&A partner at Reed Smith, jumped in front of a moving train taking his own life. These are only a few cases among many that happen around the world. The question is, why is this issue not more widely known? The answer, fear of stigma.

Study shows that twenty-eight percent of lawyers reported that they struggled with some type of depression in the past 12 months. That is four times higher than the national average. Even more concerning is that sixty-one percent admitted to feeling depressed at some point in their career. That is ten times the national average (3). Considering these numbers we have to come to the conclusion that within the legal profession there is an epidemic. However, that epidemic spreads to law students as well. The Survey of Law Student Well-Being and the Reluctance of Law Students to Seek Help for Substance Use and Mental Health Concerns reported outstanding numbers in not only mental health issues but in substance abuse as well. However, one of the most interesting points of focus in the study is the reason that students did not report having a problem. Sixty -three percent of students reported fear that they would not be admitted to the Bar if they reported a substance abuse problem; forty- three percent shared that same fear if they reported having a mental health issue (4).

The report clearly shows the stigma around mental health, however, that is not a reason to let it go unsolved. The easiest way to help those suffering is to let them know that they are not alone. There are websites and hotlines that can help them deal with the pressure and stress that they may be facing at their jobs. Mental illness is an issue that will never fully go away but with help from the community, loved ones, and acknowledgment from the law firms we can find better ways to cope with it.


(1) Walker, Rose. “Baker McKenzie Leader to Temporarily Step Down Due to Exhaustion.” The Legal Intelligencer. October 22, 2018. Accessed December 03, 2018. https://www.law.com/international/2018/10/22/baker-mckenzie-chairman-paul-rawlinson-to-temporarily-step-down-from-role-396-8258/.

(2) Rubino, Kathryn. “Global Chair Of Biglaw Firm Taking Temporary Leave Due To Exhaustion.” Above the Law. October 22, 2018. Accessed December 03, 2018. https://abovethelaw.com/2018/10/global-chair-of-biglaw-firm-taking-temporary-leave-due-to-exhaustion/.

(3)Dan. “Why We Need to Talk About Lawyers’ Mental Health Now.” Lawyers With Depression. September 23, 2018. Accessed December 03, 2018. http://www.lawyerswithdepression.com/articles/why-we-need-to-talk-about-lawyers-mental-health-now/.

(4) Organ, Jerome M., David B. Jaffe, and Katherine M. Bender. “Suffering in Silence: The Survey of Law Student Well-Being and the Reluctance of Law Students to Seek Help for Substance Use and Mental Health Concerns.” Journal of Legal Education. Accessed December 03, 2018. https://jle.aals.org/home/vol66/iss1/13/ .

Elizabeth Rimmer & LawCare

Elizabeth Rimmer & LawCare

Mckenzie Cross

Staff

Elizabeth Rimmer is the Chief Executive Officer for the company LawCare. She joined the organization in 2014 and has worked hard with them ever since. She graduated in 1997 from Kings College in London majoring in medical law and ethics. Before she worked at LawCare, Rimmer had been working as a solicitor specializing in clinical negligence. She has had over fifteen years of experience operating and organizing mental health charities. Currently at Lawcare, she has been working hard to create a strong support system for professionals within the legal field and their families.

LawCare was founded in 1997, and since then they have helped thousands of people within the legal profession with mental health issues. The organization has grown and now serves the people throughout the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man, and Jersey. LawCare is focused to not let any lawyer feel alone. Feeling like they are the only one suffering is one of the biggest reasons that they do not seek out help. LawCare has a helpline that you can call where you will be paired with an employee or volunteer that also have experience working within the law sector.

Their helpline is their main support program. It is available to call 365 days a year. The hotline is confidential, impartial, and independent from the United Kingdom’s law system. One of the most unique qualities about the LawCare helpline is that if you feel as though you are struggling more than the person can help you, you will be sent through to a LawCare supporter. A LawCare supporter is an employee who has also gone through a large struggle. They are there for you one on one for as long as you may need. The company also keeps a list of counselors and psychiatrists on hand. These mental health professionals have had special experience working with lawyers in the past, so that they may know the best treatment route for you. These lists are kept on hand so that whenever the need arises they are ready to refer you.

The hotline was created on the basis that sometimes a human just needs to talk to another human. Seventy-five percent of the calls that came through last year reported stress as the reason that they were calling. Sometimes, being able to call a stranger and talk about your problems actually helps you to work through them on your own. LawCare says that most of their callers report that they do not feel as though they need any follow up support.

Another unique aspect to the organization is that they also provide support to families and friends of Lawyers. Not only do the legal professionals need help dealing with stress and anxiety, but sometimes their families need help knowing what to do to help their loved one. LawCare provides this information to families to help them grow together. This is very important because working with stress and anxiety, as well as other mental health illnesses, is already hard enough without having to worry about your family. Lawcare takes this worry away and even turns it around so that your family may help you become even more successful.

Elizabeth Rimmer’s work with LawCare has helped the United Kingdom greatly. Not only has she been helping to create a support system throughout the legal field, she is bringing awareness to an issue that usually does not like to be talked about. By breaking down the stigma walls and showing legal professionals and other professionals that mental health is a very real issue, we can provide support and resources to make the working community a healthier place.        

David Jaffe: a role model for us

David Jaffe: a role model for us

From left to right: Mckenzie Cross (staff), Manel Atserias Luque (president), Ferran Garcia de Palau Garcia-Faria (Well-Being Committee), David Jaffe (Associate Dean of Student Affairs of the American University Washington College of Law), Gabriela Boldó Prats (Well-Being Committee) y Albert Ruda (Dean of University of Girona Law School).

Mckenzie  Cross

Staff

In 2014, David Jaffe was one of three professionals to set in motion a change in how we look at mental health among legal professionals. He graduated in 1993 from American University, Washington College of Law with his Law degree. He has been Dean of Student Affairs since 1997. Anyone who has the honor to meet him can immediately appreciate the love and dedication he has to not only his job but the students that he encounters. I could listen to him speak at a conference in Girona, Spain and to learn about the study that he was apart of.

The article, “Suffering in Silence: The Survey of Law Student Well-Being and the Reluctance of Law Students to Seek Help for Substance Use and Mental Health Concerns,” was the results of the Survey of Law Student Well-Being (SLSWB). The study included 3,300 students from fifteen different law schools. It was the first multischool study on law student use of alcohol and street drugs in twenty years, and the first-ever study to address the use of prescription drugs. The study is allowing society to acknowledge that the mental health within law students is an issue that needs to be addressed and worked through.

The results of the study showed an astounding number of students struggling with mental illness. However, the study also showed how those students believed their mental illness would be perceived by the staff of their college as well as the American Bar Association. The study reported that fifty-three percent of law students drank enough to get drunk in the past thirty days. Seventeen percent of students were screened positive for depression, and thirty-seven percent screened positive for anxiety. With numbers being so high, it is incredible that it is not considered a better know problem; however, Universities cannot help students if they are not coming forward. The study showed that only four percent of respondents sought professional help with drug and alcohol abuse. Sixty-three percent of students reported that they feared there would be a threat to their bar admission if they sought help for alcohol and drug abuse. However, the percentage is only slightly smaller with forty-five percent fearing the same repercussions if they stepped forward with a mental illness. The study shows many different issues among law students; however, the most impressive part of Jaffe’s work was not the study, but rather his dedication to finding solutions.

Suffering in silence identifies a few actions that could be put in place to help students. One of the most important activities was for faculty to have strict attendance policies. This will help faculty look for warning signs, such as a missing student class unexpectedly or coming in late with no notice — also the policy that faculty should attend regular training on how to identify the warning signs of mental health issues. A faculty member that can recognize strange behavior and approach the student with nonjudgmental looks and listening ears will get a better response then students seeking help on their own. Another action that David Jaffe spoke of at the conference was to make a drug and alcohol course mandatory for incoming law students. This could help students to know the risks of their behavior as well as opening them up to understand that the college cares about their safety and health.

Mental health among law students is a growing issue. With help from people like David Jaffe and others, we can help put into place policies and actions to help them. Students need to know that they are not alone and that how they are feeling is not their fault, being compassionate and working to make them feel comfortable and not judged will help to turn this epidemic around.

Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren and Her Dedication to Help the Mentally Ill

Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren and Her Dedication to Help the Mentally Ill

Photo: J. Albert Diaz/ALM

Mckenzie Cross

Staff

Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren is a judge in the criminal circuit division court in Broward County Florida and is setting forth a reaction across the United States to help and understand the mentally ill. Lerner-Wren graduated with her J.D degree from the Nova Southeastern law center. She started her career as a commercial real estate and general practice lawyer. She then moved on to serve as a PAIMI lawyer (Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness) in the 17th judicial court. With her experience as a PAIMI lawyer and her understanding of mental illness, it was to no surprise when Chief Judge Dale Ross made her the head of the newly formed Mental Health Court. Although she was only 37 and had been a judge for only one year, she took the role, and from that moment on, the view on mental health cases has changed. This choice would prove to be a good one as she went on to help pave the way for other courts to follow. Dale Ross stated “When you are blazing the path, when there is no blueprint, you have to make hundreds of decisions every day. As far as I can tell, she took something that never was and made it into something that everybody wants. And that’s amazing.”

The idea and construction of the court stemmed from the highly publicized case of Aaron Wynn. When Wynn was only eighteen years old, he was involved in a car accident that caused brain damage. After the accident, he portrayed violent behavior. Although his parents tried to receive help, they were never granted it by the government. Later Wynn had a violent outbreak and pushed an 85- year-old woman. Unfortunately, she fell, hit her head, and sadly died. He was then charged with manslaughter. However, he was deemed unfit to stand trial. It was the heartbreak of this case that led to a Judicial report in 1994. The report disclosed that 10,000 mentally ill citizens were jailed annually. Nonetheless, they were not receiving any mental health treatment.

Things changed however when Judge Lerner- Wren stepped up to the plate. Since 2000, she has redirected over twenty- thousand mental illness cases from going to jail and instead helped to find them a safe place where they can be treated and helped. “It’s the matter of humanizing the law, when you do that, the … forces in the courtroom shift” she stated. Her compassion for people within her court is astounding that what makes her such a great judge. She said that even if things did not work with the newly formed court, she needed families to know that there was someone fighting against the harsh injustice of courts when it came to the mentally ill. “We have an abiding belief in recovery,” she said. “People diagnosed with mental health conditions have the capacity to pursue their dreams and their professional lives. They deserve dignity and are entitled to the full breadth of their legal rights under the law. Every individual has worth and should have the opportunity to reach their human potential in this life within the community” these words gave hope to families and hope into a new court system.

Lerner-Wren also wrote a book to bring awareness to the court titled, “A Court of Refuge“. Within the book, she focuses on different cases that she presided on throughout her time as the Mental Health Court Judge and shows the growth of the court from the beginning to helping tens of thousands of people. She is also an international public speaker in hopes of reaching more people and growing this type of court division. She has even been awarded multiple times. Some of her more prestigious awards include the Justice Leadership Award in 2013, the Humanitarian of the Year in 2000, and that same year she received the Children’s Advocate Award.

Throughout all of her hard work, she has remained focused on bettering the lives of those in need. The Broward’s Court could not have picked a more focus, determined woman. Families put their trust into her everyday, and she never lets them down. “My time spent at the state hospital working on behalf of the residents there, that was a difficult tour of duty,” she said. “This is a healing tour of duty.”