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The MSBA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee presented a free webinar June 11, Making Yourself Relevant: How to Thrive as an Attorney in Turbulent Times.” Committee co-chair Darryl Tarver noted that although the original concept of the discussion was framed around the COVID-19 pandemic, the subsequent killings of George Floyd and other black Americans, and the following social unrest, have also caused “turbulence within our personal and professional lives.” The discussion, therefore, was “aimed generally at helping lawyers to stay afloat and to continue ascending in their careers and their lives despite the turmoil.” Hon. Michael W. Reed, Maryland Court of Special Appeals, and Mark Jaskulski, Assistant State’s Attorney for Baltimore City and co-chair of the LGBTQ Bar, moderated the discussion.  Alycia Sutor, managing director of GrowthPlay, provided advice on how to nurture professional networks even when doing so requires a different approach. Ms. Sutor emphasized the importance of making “sure we’re caring for our network so our network can care for us.” In order to cultivate and maintain relationships, she suggested creating a list of top 10 to 20 contacts and ensuring contact even when it is difficult. While in-person meetings may not be an option, Ms. Sutor noted that virtual coffees and roundtable discussions could serve the purpose of staying in touch.

Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C, director of the MSBA’s Lawyer Assistance Program, provided practical tips on fostering emotional resilience. Attorneys must care for themselves so they can care for their clients. Ms. Caplan suggested avoiding information overload in this time of constantly changing news; spending time outdoors; and taking “mindful moments” of deep breathing, walking around the house, or otherwise grounding yourself.

Pilar C. Nichols, an attorney with Offit Kurman, is experiencing many of the frustrations facing attorneys during the extended closures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a litigator, she is dealing with anxious clients who want their day in court. As a family law practitioner, she has to discuss sensitive custody and child support issues with clients who may have their children within earshot. As a parent, she has to bargain with her young sons to stay quiet just a little bit longer while she finishes a phone call. “The biggest thing I think is just be easy on yourself and give yourself a break and know that we all are not at our best. In a question and answer session, Mr. Jaskulski wondered how an attorney can have a difficult, uncomfortable telephone conversation with a client that would be much easier to have in person. Ms. Nichols suggested having these conversations by video call. “Whether you’re physically next to each other or not, them seeing your face, them seeing the expression, them knowing that you’re not rolling your eyes when you’re talking to them, they can see the look of empathy on your face … that really makes the connection.”

In closing remarks, Yolanda F. Sonnier, co-chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, expressed her hope that “after the protests and unrests we will have a more equitable social, legal and criminal justice system.”