As a new author of a book only a few months old, I was proud to be have my book listed among those of friends. I was also pleased to see so many great resources out there for lawyers. Check out the list and let me know in the comments if you have read any of them.
If you are looking for more great books relating to mental health and mindfulness, check out our Brilliant Recommendations with book and product reviews.
Founder’s Note: I have written here before about how much networking on LinkedIn and creativity have done for me. Even so, I know it’s hard to do at the beginning because you are trying to learn something new and engagement may seem slow. I recently came across Lin Walker on LinkedIn and found her comments to be thoughtful and well crafted. We chatted and I was inspired by her willingness to jump in and get started with content creation to promote herself and her firm. I think you will be inspired by her too, so read on and consider following her for more great content on LinkedIn.
Q. Lin, you are getting started on LinkedIn and with content creation. Tell me why you decided to take that leap to support your firm and practice?
I decided to start marketing on LinkedIn for a number of reasons that centered on accessibility issues for foreign nationals and for female and minority attorneys, like me.
U.S. immigration law is unnecessarily complex, involving at least five different governmental agencies, with policies and procedures guided by statutes, regulations, internal memoranda, administrative case law and executive orders. So much of what is written by attorneys is for other attorneys – the language and terminology is often complicated and relies on terms of art that someone without legal training would struggle to understand and apply, let alone someone whose first language is not English.
I wanted to provide a service for foreign nationals and non-attorneys to make immigration law more accessible, but also for people who are new to the practice, whether they are paralegals, attorneys or human resources managers. My goal is always accessibility–no matter a person’s background or training, I want to make U.S. immigration policies and procedures understandable to remove some of the fear and anxiety in dealing with the various governmental agencies.
I also felt like there was an absence of voices from people like me. I am a first-generation immigrant and first-generation attorney. Most legal publications do not make it easy for someone like me publish an article–they want a pedigree and lived experiences that I do not possess. In addition, in the past, when I was asked to write articles, they were published under the partner’s name (usually male) and I was lucky if I received a byline or footnote with my name. With LinkedIn, I have an equal opportunity to express my opinions and experiences in a way that is authentic to me–where I get credit for my own hard work. LinkedIn = freedom for me.
Q. Isn’t this somewhat scary for you? How are you dealing with that?
Initially it was terrifying – I was never given an opportunity to use my own voice before, so I was out of practice. I worried about posting something that was viewed as awful or unhelpful.
I can’t say I’m over this 100%, but I was able to quiet that fear and make the practice more tenable by focusing on my goal to make immigration law accessible and by sticking to what I knew best (immigration law) and the issues that I was passionate about. If I read an article and it caused a reaction, I knew I had to write about it. Instead of venting to my husband about how terrible an immigration policy, procedure or decision was, I wrote about it.
I have also found a measure of peace in the process by following other attorneys and seeing how they made topics accessible and inspired engagement on LinkedIn. A trusted friend recently offered me great advice: even when a post is authentic and right for you, there is a still a level of discomfort and vulnerability. Part of the process is becoming comfortable with this level of vulnerability.
Q. Is any part of content creation fun for you? What have you liked?
I absolutely love collaborating with other people–attorneys or not–to create accessible content. One project that I love is critiquing the way popular culture (movies and television) portrays the U.S. immigration system and providing guidance on what is real and what is dramatized for entertainment purposes. There is so much misunderstanding of how the immigration system works and so many stereotypes about immigrants – by critiquing these portrayals, it is my hope to educate the general public about the realities of the U.S. immigration system and immigrants.
I have been fortunate enough to work with a Social Media Content Producer who shares my goal of providing educational and accessible content. It was actually his idea to critique how films portray U.S. immigration and immigrants. With his guidance, I was able to combine my love of researching, writing and educating into creating content for LinkedIn.
I’ve also been lucky enough to work with a Digital Marketing expert who introduced me to several attorneys who are doing amazing things on LinkedIn, which is how I was introduced to you.
Q. Part of content creation, especially in the early phases, is feeling like you are screaming into a void. Do you have a dream or goal that is helping you keep moving forward?
Initially creating content was really a struggle because I thought, “why post that – everyone knows that!” But in reality, the opposite is true – my lived experiences have given me a different perspective and goal – to make U.S. immigration law accessible to anyone who needs it. Being able to offer guidance, as a first-generation immigrant, and first-generation immigration attorney, outweighs most of the fear that I have about my content.
Q. What resources would you offer to other lawyers who are trying content creation for marketing or networking purposes?
If you are struggling to create content – that’s normal, we’ve all been there. Try starting by addressing questions that clients ask you all the time. It doesn’t matter if other attorneys know the answer – you’re not writing for them. You’re writing for your current or future client(s).
If someone criticizes your content without providing actionable feedback – ignore them. If the feedback isn’t geared towards improving your content, then serves only one purpose–to muzzle you. Your LinkedIn profile is your party – you decide who to let in and how wild it gets.
If you can’t get support within your firm or practice area, collaborate with people outside your firm or practice area. There are so many areas of law that overlap and so many industries impacted by your particular area of practice. And, there are so many amazing people on LinkedIn who can mentor and support you.
Lin Walker is an attorney whose practice has focused on all aspects of employment- and family-based immigration law. As an experienced attorney, Lin has represented diverse corporate and individual clients, focusing on outstanding researchers, individuals of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences and business, and individuals whose work is in the national interest of the United States. Prior to joining Meyner and Landis, Lin worked at several immigration law firms, where she handled various employment- and family-based immigration cases, including O-1, O-2, H-1B, L-1, TN, EB-1 (Extraordinary Ability, Outstanding Researcher/Professor and Multinational Manager), and National Interest Waiver petitions, as well as adjustment of status applications, naturalization applications, and PERM Labor Certifications. In addition, Lin served as a high school science teacher in New York City for six years, working with at-risk teenagers and young adults, where she received a prestigious Math for America Master Teacher Fellowship in 2015.
For most of the pandemic, I was good about working out but struggled with motivation to do strength training. I kept trying to incorporate strength into my routine but inevitably fell out of the habit. This was until last year when I finally cracked the code of inconsistency and developed a pattern of doing 3 days focusing on strength, and 3 days focusing on cardio. Fortunately, the realities of math and my calendar led to me designating Friday as my day of rest.
And you know what? I loved it. It was nice to mix things up. It was nice to get back to a practice I hadn’t done for a while. It was nice to remind myself that my practice was mine and I could tailor it to suit my needs. After a long work week, it was nice to emphasize rest and my body more and my mind little bit less.
I have touted consistency on this blog before and I won’t depart from that wisdom any time soon. But meditation is a practice for life and it will come with ebbs and flows. At times, it may also come with boredom and malaise. Variety is one way to stave those things off or recover from them. In this way, even if the “rest day” is slightly less consistent, it is conducive overall to preserving mindfulness as a habit long-term.
Now, you may wonder how to incorporate a mental rest day if you aren’t a fan of restorative yoga. In truth, the name of a “mental rest day” is a bit of a misnomer because many mindfulness practices may include a rest for the mind. This is actually a good thing, though, because it means options for mixing up your meditation practice are myriad.
Here are some ideas beyond restorative yoga for trying your own mental rest day:
Try a new kind of meditation practice. If you usually do breath practice, incorporate body scan, loving-kindness or a new kind of noting practice such as mindfulness of sounds.
When it comes to physical fitness, the idea of a “rest” day is so standard that it’s almost a no-brainer. The reason for this is clear: our bodies need time to recover from physical training and exertion. This same idea often holds true for our minds too. If you need a break or just want to try something new, consider incorporating a mental rest day into your mindfulness practice.
There is a common idea that confidence is this feeling of empowerment. Some people define it in the negative as if it the absence of fear or doubt. I don’t like those definitions. Perhaps they are true for some, but based on my own experience they are incomplete.
I think confidence is more of a process than an emotion. Thus, the test can’t be how you feel in any given moment. It has to be based on what you do over time.
So, when Attorney at Law magazine reached out to me to ask for a guest blog post, it didn’t take long for me to come up with a topic. I knew I had to write about confidence and explain it is really. I also wanted to explain why mindfulness and compassion are powerful tools for building confidence.
To learn more, check out the full guest post here:
People curious about my decision to quit drinking alcohol usually ask me (privately) some version of the same two questions: Why? and How?
The “Why” is different for everybody.
My “Why” was like an everything bagel – a really stale one.
Some people quit out of necessity. They get in legal trouble, their spouse threatens divorce, the doctor (or priest) says “it’s time,” they develop an allergy (that’s a real thing), they “accidentally” say something that incinerates a most-cherished relationship, their boss threatens them with termination, etc.
Others quit because they see the effects of alcohol around them and they just want to do things differently. They’re tired of the drama, the missed deadlines, the prurient behavior, the disappointments, the dishonesty, the worrying, etc. Alcohol weighs them down – indirectly, but in a powerful way. And it’s just plain exhausting.
Some quit for financial reasons. Regular boozing is expensive. I did the math for myself, and I figure (conservatively) that if I had never started drinking in the first place, I would have saved enough money to pay cash for law school.
Look: 21 years of drinking (I’m 42 and it actually started way earlier than that) x $25 (average) per day = $191,625. My law school charged me a whopping $120,000 (plus a boatload of compounding interest).
If that math sounds wonky to you, try this one: I quit 981 days ago. My sobriety tracker app estimates I’ve saved myself $24,425 since quitting. Think about what that means moving forward. I’m hoping to get another 50 years out of this ride!
Even moderate drinking drains the bank. A 6-pack of beer costs $6 – $10. If I bought one every other day (no more than three beers a day): that’s $18 – $40 a week; $936 – $2,080 a year; $46,800 – $104,000 in 50 years.
The numbers above don’t even account for lost productivity or the healthcare costs associated with regular or prolonged drinking. When I started my journey, I estimated I spent one hour a day drinking (it was way more). I’ve earned back almost 1,000 hours of my life – but it feels like a million. My productivity now is threefold what it was when I quit. I have three active boys, a busy law practice with my spouse, and a side-gig as an artist and marketer. I need all the energy I can get. And I love all of the energy that I have!
Truth is: there are a million different reasons to quit. No matter what yours are, have been or will be, keep a few things in mind:
1. Your “why” is the most important “why” for you, even if someone else tells you it is silly, stupid, meaningless, an overreaction etc. Nobody knows you like you. DO YOU. All the rest of it is just noise.
2. No one else’s “why” is better or worse than yours. Playing the comparison game will not – I repeat – will not help you. Compare yourself only to yourself and keep moving! It’s a game of progress not perfection.
3. Your “why” is not a point of shame – no matter how bad you think it is. YOUR WHY IS YOUR SUPERPOWER. Own it. Love it. Remember it. Honor it. Your “Why” got you where you are. And that, my friends, is a blessing – even if it hurts in the beginning. It won’t hurt forever, I promise!
4. You are allowed to share your “why” with others, but you don’t have to, especially if you’re not ready. Take your time. You may not even really understand your “why” fully until you’ve had some time to clear your mind and think about the impact of your choices and actions. Be patient with yourself and with others. Growth takes time. A lot of it. You’re allowed a little privacy in this process.
First,talk kindly to yourself. When you quit drinking, you are going to have feelings. Lots of them. Some may be painful or uncomfortable. And some may be wonderful beyond your wildest expectations. Positive self-talk is absolutely essential to riding this roller coaster. If you’re lucky, your parents taught you how to do this and you’re already good at it. But lots of folks are clueless when it comes to self-soothing. So, try this simple exercise: Imagine yourself 20 years into the future. Close your eyes and picture what you look like, how you feel and all of the wisdom you’ve earned over the years. Picture yourself happy, content, fulfilled and proud. Now, ask that future version of you to talk to the current you. Do it out loud. And keep it simple: “You can do this.” “I’m proud of you.” “This will pass.” “Just breathe.” Do this every. single. day. Keep in mind, there is no such thing as a right way or a wrong way. Just do your best and thank yourself for the effort!
Second, if you’re going to quit drinking, you’ve got to replace old habits with new ones. Use your hands. Try knitting, whittling, braiding leather, stringing beads, weaving. Get yourself a cheap sketchbook, a pocket-sized watercolor set, a notebook, a camera (your smart phone works!). Paint, write, draw, photograph, write poetry, imagine. Whatever you use, it needs to be portable, it needs to be mind-numbing and it needs to be with you all the time. Something you can carry through airport security (okay, maybe not a whittling knife). Every time you feel the old habit creep up, grab your “thing” and get those hands busy. Don’t stop until the urge passes. It will pass.
Third, there will be plenty of days when you want to drink. Have a plan. When I first decided to quit drinking, I took all the alcohol out of the house. We were in Covid lockdown so there was really no place for me to go to drink, so that made it easy (easier). But, if you know that going to Happy Hour on Thursdays with your coworkers will be a temptation for you, don’t go. Go see a movie instead or check out your local park or nature trail. If you do socialize with drinking friends, ask the bartender in advance to make you a fancy, refillable “mocktail.” I kept a pretty glass, soda water and fresh lemon and lime on hand at all times for the first year. Hot tea is a great sippy cup substitute also.
Fourth, sweat out that stress. You absolutely have to exercise. Make time. If you had time to drink yesterday, you have time to sweat today. At my drinking peak, I used alcohol daily to blunt a fairly heavy level of work/parenting stress. So when I quit, that energy had to go somewhere. I literally felt like I was going to explode. The first 60 days were the worst. Then my mom and sisters insisted we do remote cardio classes together. I cursed them for days. But it worked. With their help, I started a new habit, and prevented what I thought was sure to be a case of premature death by spontaneous combustion. Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be expensive. Cleaning house counts. Yard work counts. Just move. And make sure you’re sweating when you do it.
Fifth, ask for help if you need it. Everybody’s circumstances are different. You may have an unsupportive roommate or partner. Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start (or how to stop). Maybe you feel trapped or ashamed or like you’re just not strong enough to weather the next storm. There are people who are ready to help you. Ask a doctor, a priest, a family member, a close friend, a local non-profit or a support group. Reach out to someone you trust. Loving arms will catch you.
Finally, think about how you see alcohol in your life. Look around. We are bombarded with advertising encouraging alcohol consumption in every one of life’s most glorious occasions: weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, the Super Bowl. We use it for celebration and in moments of sorrow. Did you get dumped? Blow that big presentation? Fail your final exam? There’s a concoction for that!
Alcohol. Is. Literally. Everywhere. I never really noticed this until I decided to quit. And then I asked myself, why do they want me to drink so much? It’s an odd thing, really.
I often wonder how things would be if, instead of asking “How” and “Why” a person quits drinking, we were to ask “How” and “Why” we all start drinking in the first place. The answer, of course, does not matter. All that matters is what you do today. And I have a question for you: What have you got to lose?
Author Bio: Christina T. Mazaheri is Managing Partner at Mazaheri & Mazaheri where she practices primarily in the areas of Employment & Civil Rights Law. She is a native South Carolinian and met her husband and law partner, Bernie, while working at the nation’s largest plaintiffs’ firm in Florida. Christina and her family (Bernie, their three boys and their Great Danes) moved to their “forever home” in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky in 2018. Christina handles cases in several states, and she has published articles and spoken on topics dealing with Wage & Hour, Age Discrimination, Arbitration and Family Medical Leave issues in the workplace. When she’s not practicing law, Christina takes an active role in educating her children, who are full-time practitioners of the Art of Fencing. Christina also enjoys creative urban agriculture, historic renovation, painting, music & textile arts, raising and showing Great Danes, and remaining active with her church.
It should come as no great surprise that someone who loves writing enough to have written a book and founded a blog loves to talk about writing. But do you what’s even better? Talking about writing with another writer.
This week, I got to do that two times in one day. On Wednesday I recorded a podcast for The Write Approach podcast with my lawyer friend and fellow author, Jeremy Richter. (Stay tuned for that one. It should be released soon.) That evening, I also got to talk to coach, author, and former attorney Bob Levant for the Iron Advocate Mindset Virtual Book Club.
The conversation with Bob was great because, like me, he’s also a fan of mindfulness. He does yoga regularly and explores the concept in his own book, Finding Polaris. Since as Bob describes, he covers the topic in less of a “deep dive” than my book, we get into some of the finer points in this interview.
This week, we offer a guest post from a friend and supporter of the blog who is doing great work out in the world. Joseline Jean-Louis Hardrick found me and the blog on LinkedIn and she’s been an active supporter of it. We love her work to promote diversity, inclusion, and wellness in the legal profession and want to support her back here. Welcome Joseline to Brilliant Legal Mind!
Many lawyers and other professionals are experiencing burnout. Are you going through a hard time in your life and career and are constantly struggling with chronic stress that leaves you feeling exhausted to the core and helpless to the extent where you think nothing can ever go right?
No job in this world is easy. Every task, every goal, and every journey has its fair share of struggles and obstacles. That said, being a lawyer has its troubles on another level. It is certainly not easy to tackle difficult cases, prepare strategies for your client, and stand strong in the grueling atmosphere of the courtroom. This job and your daily routine certainly take a toll on your well-being and can easily produce a state of complete burnout.
What Burnout Does to You
Burnout is a traumatizing state of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion that makes you feel swamped and shattered. It is normal to have occasional or even routine bouts of stress, particularly in this line of work. However, things take an unexpected, undesirable turn when you do not manage your stress on time and soothe it daily.
When you don’t address the routine stress, it grows bigger and more monstrous. There then comes the point when you become so emotionally drained and overwhelmed that your body and mind keep you from going any further. You lose the motivation to take on any case; you feel withdrawn from even the activities you once found incredibly enjoyable, and you simply let go of the will to push yourself any harder.
You become cynical, hopeless, pessimistic, lethargic, exhausted, and even highly resentful. You do not wish to progress in life because you feel you don’t have that spark anymore. Burnout manifests itself in many different symptoms, including feeling drained, emotionally and physically, all the time; having muscular pain frequently, drastic changes in appetite, insomnia, lowered immunity, and a very low sense of self-esteem, among other things. If you experience any of these daily, it is clear you are not in a healthy physical, emotional, and mental state.
Whether you work as a litigator or as a transactional attorney, or you’re in academia or government, if you find yourself overwhelmed and cynical often, that’s because of burnout. Fortunately, a creative way out of this rut is a unique approach to soothe burnout and reclaim your energy, motivation, and life for good.
A Creative Solution to Handle Burnout
Having struggled with burnout excessively and frequently myself, I realized that I would have to find a unique fix for the problem to turn things around. When we are stuck in a bad rut, often, our go-to approach to get ourselves out of the problem is to push past the walls. We keep pushing ourselves forward to end the problem, but we only exhaust ourselves more in the process.
The right way to turn the tables around in your favor is to look for a new angle, just like you do in a deposition. Instead of beating around the bush, you bring up a completely new and creative perspective on the table and turn the odds in your favor. Similarly, to soothe your burnout, you need to adopt an innovative approach.
This approach is about finding joy in the journey by engaging yourself in useful activities that help you channel your stressful energy into something positive, meaningful, and productive. I call this approach “RENEWAL.”
What is Renewal?
The RENEWAL process involves the following:
R: Review your strengths, priorities, and talents and review your schedule to understand everything better.
E: Energize yourself by eating healthily, sleeping well, and taking care of your body.
N: Noticing things peacefully and becoming more mindful of yourself and your surroundings.
E: Expressing gratitude for everything you have to attain contentment from within.
W: Withdrawing yourself from the digital world to give yourself a break from the online media and different technological tools.
A: Assess your routine and responsibilities and prioritize things that matter to you.
L: Love is an essential requirement to live happily, so you need to infuse meaningful relationships and connections in your life.
This approach helps you change your thinking and behavior to modify your current state of life. Understand that nothing always happens as you plan it, but you need to let go of your former ideas and create a new you to improve on things.
While doing that, understand that you must have a clear goal moving forward, especially in the study and practice of law.
In case you’re wondering if any of these ideas are backed by research – they are! The anecdotal evidence and your personal lived experience tell you that being a law student and lawyer is stressful. But so do all the studies. The studies also show that the techniques can lead to lawyer satisfaction in their personal and professional lives.
One thing they noticed is that most law students and lawyers focus almost exclusively on external factors. These factors include money and status-such as earnings, partnership in a law firm, law school debt, class rank, law review membership, and U.S. News & World Report’s law school rankings. But the study shows almost no correlation between those external factors and lawyer well-being.
But they found that internal and psychological factors correlate to “happiness” and “satisfaction.” But unfortunately, focusing on the internal factors, such as autonomy, interest, freedom, a sense of worth, choices regarding family and personal life, erode in law school.
Interestingly, money and status factors and demographic differences were least important in lawyer happiness. Different practice types and settings further exemplified the issues that arise with a misplaced focus between internal and external factors. For example, lawyers in large firms and other prestigious positions were not “as happy” as public service attorneys. This held true even though the latter had much better grades and pay than the former group. And junior partners in law firms show no significant improvement in happiness than senior associates. Even with the higher pay, benefits, and prestige of a partner, there was no actual increase in the sense of satisfaction.
The bottom line is, lawyers are like everybody else. Despite specialized cognitive training and the common perception that lawyers are fundamentally different, we are people first and lawyers second.
So do yourself a favor, practice RENEWAL regularly to prevent and overcome burnout because the world needs and deserves, well-balanced attorneys.
If you’ve followed the blog, you probably know by now that I am a fan of Peloton. Historically, however, I haven’t really used the Peloton platform to support my meditation practice because I prefer unguided meditation. Late last year, however, one of my favorite yoga instructors Aditi Shah announced the new intro to meditation program. As a maven of meditation, I did the program myself so I could tell you about it here.
Here’s an overview of the program, a summary of what I liked and didn’t like, and a bottom line conclusion for those of you considering it for yourself.
The Intro to Meditation Program structure is available on the Peloton app or any Peloton device. You don’t need any equipment to use it, though some headphones and a meditation spot or cushion sure help. The program is designed to be completed over the course of 3 weeks and consists of short (5-minute) instructional videos to explain basic concepts and 5 or 10-minute guided meditations for practice. The concepts covered include mindfulness of thoughts, mindfulness of body, metta (loving-kindness), and them mindfulness of emotions.
What I Like About the Program
Overall, I think the Intro to Meditation is a good start for those new to meditation and mindfulness. Here’s what I liked most.
I don’t normally do guided meditations because I enjoy silence, so I was pleasantly surprised that the program meditations actually included some silent spaces. I have done some Peloton meditations in the past that I wouldn’t even call meditations because they were so infused with imagery or storytelling that there was no space for my own awareness. These were comparatively less filled with words and allowed some space to experience the concepts taught in the program.
Even though I am a fan of Peloton and adore Aditi, I have to admit that the program is not perfect. Here are the things that I didn’t love about it.
Aditi Sounds Rehearsed at Times.
Aditi sounds pretty natural when I take her yoga classes, but she sounded rehearsed for most of the explanation videos. And, though I understand that Peloton sells fitness apparel, I thought it was silly that Aditi was wearing a sports bra with no shirt or sweatshirt when she was teaching the passive activity of meditation. To be fair, this was likely the result of a new format and the fact that Aditi was teaching in a new way. In order to get the content delivered in a time efficient way, she almost certainly had to be reading from a script. In other words, the experience of watching the explanation videos lacks the connection you might get even from other prerecorded Peloton classes.
Information Was Conveyed But Real Teaching Was Rare.
Along the same lines as the point above, the Intro to Meditation program provides information about meditation but it doesn’t really teach the subject. Clearly, this is a result of the forum and the intent for the program to only be an introduction to meditation. Even so, the explanation videos could have provided a few more stories or examples to give the content more life. The few that Aditi offered in the videos appeared heartfelt and were effective, so I hope future Peloton programs will dig a bit deeper on this point.
The Order of the Program Felt Scattered.
As I experienced when writing my book, it can be hard to identify the “best” starting point when teaching meditation. Though meditation practices often select a single focal point, our experience is rarely so isolated and usually includes a mishmash of sensory information, body sensations, thoughts, emotions, and external stimuli. Though I like that the Program included the right topics, I found the order somewhat confusing and scattered.
The Structure May Not Be the Best Tool for Establishing a Habit.
The Intro to Meditation Program is an accessible tool to help the millions of Peloton users worldwide learn the basics of meditation practice. Though the Program doesn’t stand on its own to support a long-term meditation practice, that may not be a bad thing. It will likely leave users wanting more but meditation practice is to some degree about exploration. Because the Program makes trying meditation simple and easy, it is a good start for anyone new to meditation but hopefully not a final destination.