Photo of Mallory Schneider Ricci

A proud nerd with an unhealthy obsession with Harry Potter, her dog, and all things Superhero.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This annual campaign aims to raise awareness for mental illnesses and break the stigma associated with mental health issues. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 Americans will be affected by a mental illness in their lifetime, and every American is affected through friends and family who have mental illnesses.

Thus, it is likely that one of us has a mental illness of some kind, and a sure thing that we know someone with a mental illness.green ribbon

Many professionals deal with depression.  We work in fast-paced, highly demanding environments that can take a toll on our mental health. According to the Dave Nee Foundation, lawyers in the United States are the occupational group with the highest incidence of depression and fifth in suicides.  Further, chronic stress can trigger the onset of clinical depression.

Those are some startling statistics! But what does this have to do with women specifically? According to NAMI, women are prone to certain mental health conditions:

  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (a severe form of PMS)
  • Perinatal Depression (depression during or after pregnancy)
  • Perimenopausal Depression (depression during menopause)

sad-girl-1382940_960_720A 2014 study on depression in professional women found that women in positions of authority have more depressive symptoms than men in positions of authority (although apparently female lawyers are less depressed than male lawyers). According to the linked article, this can be attributed to women’s traditional assumption of most of the domestic responsibilities, as well as pay inequity, and the scarcity of other women at top levels. The article recommends that professional women

  • Choose a family-friendly employer
  • Find like-minded women and create a network
  • Don’t strive for perfection

unhappy manNotably, female professionals do not own the market on depression and mental health disorders. Male professionals have their own struggles.  A recent American Bar Association article on depression in attorneys cited a study by National Institute for Safety and Health which found that male lawyers age 20 to 64 are more than twice as likely to die from suicide than are men the same age in a different occupation. A study done in 2016 by the Journal of Addiction Medicine shows that male attorneys are also susceptible to problem drinking.  The rate of drinking problems among all attorneys is three times that of the general population, as 1 in 5 attorneys are problem drinkers. In a survey done on 12,000 lawyers, 25 percent of the male lawyers tested positive for hazardous and potentially alcohol-dependent drinking.  According to the study, men under age 30 are most at-risk.

Interestingly, the study shows that female attorneys have even higher rates of alcohol abuse than male attorneys (which is the reverse of the general population). So, although female attorneys may be less susceptible to depression than male attorneys, they turn to alcohol more than men.

From an employer’s standpoint, taking care of employees’ mental health can increase productivity and job satisfaction. Employers should review their wellness programs and assess (and, if necessary, beef up) their coverage for mental health issues and include an employee assistance program, or EAP, to provide employees with confidential referrals to mental health professionals.

mental-1389919_960_720It is clear that male and female professionals (especially lawyers) have high-pressure, high conflict jobs that can take a mental and emotional toll, and everyone has different methods for reducing their stressors. The key is to find healthy stress outlets and methods for avoiding or dealing with depression.

Other recommendations for maintaining mental health or helping with depressive symptoms include:

  • Regular exercise
  • Meditation and breathing techniques
  • Making time to do something you enjoy or just for you
  • Set small, achievable goals
  • Make small, positive changes to your diet including increases to folic acid and omega-3 fatty acids
  • Get enough, or at least more sleep
  • Challenge negative thoughts and practice positive ones
  • Avoid withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Find something to make you laugh
  • Participate in your insurer’s Wellness  Program
  • Reach out to your insurer’s Employee Assistance program
  • Honestly talk to your doctor

Obviously, for a lot of professionals following the above advice is easier said than done.  But nobody has to go it alone.  There is no shame in asking for help.

Mental Health Month is a good time for all of us to ask ourselves whether we are doing all right and to seek help if we need it. If your employer doesn’t have a hotline or EAP, please try the following contact information below if you are in need of help of any kind:

NAMI Helpline 800-950-NAMI Suicide prevention

M-F, 10 AM – 6 PM ET

Text “NAMI” to 741741

Mental Health America Helpline

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

24 hours Text “MHA” to 741741

 

Image Credits: From Google Images,  Creative Commons license: Green Ribbon; Blue Woman from Pixabay; Unhappy man from Max Pixel; Mental Health Cloud from Pixabay; Suicide Prevention Hotline from Lifelinelogo.svg-Wikipedia

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third and final post in the blog series Diary of a Pregnant Lawyer – Pregnancy in the Professional Workplace. The first blogmester is here, and the second is here. Mallory wrote all three installments before she had her baby on December 22.

pregnant woman and high heel shoes
“Uh, I don’t think so!”

Welcome to the Third Blogmester! This blogmester feels very near and dear to my heart, because as I am writing this one I am about as preggo as a preggo can be. I am very uncomfortable, owing to the giant baby mushing all of my innards, and writing in between contractions. Don’t worry – they are not timeable (I don’t think?).

But remember at the very beginning of my blog series when I said practicing law while being pregnant is hard? Well, that sentiment stems mostly from the third trimester, during which the difficulty of working in a professional atmosphere correlates with the growing of the baby bump. Heels, suits, pantyhose – HECK NO to all of these things, I say! I am now proudly rocking the “frumpy” professional look because it is truly the best I can do short of showing up in my pajamas.

Continue Reading Diary of a pregnant lawyer: Third blogmester

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in the three-trimester blog series Diary of a Pregnant Lawyer – Pregnancy in the Professional Workplace. The first blogmester is here. On December 22 (after she wrote her last “blogmester” post, which we’ll publish later this month), Mallory gave birth to Margot Eleanor Ricci. Congratulations, Mallory!

You have survived the first trimester! Many consider the first trimester to be the hardest of the three (I respectfully disagree and will elaborate more in the upcoming Third Blogmester post).

"Honey, I made it to my second trimester!"
“Honey, I made it to my second trimester!”

If you spent the first trimester escaping to your office for 30-minute power naps, escaping to the bathroom for vomit sessions, or escaping to the fridge for some craving-satisfying snacks, things may be looking a little better for you now.

Unless you’re like me, and the fun times are rolling for a little while longer.

In any event, this second 12-week period is considered to be the easiest. But that doesn’t mean the second trimester doesn’t come without issues, some of which involve the place where professional women spend the majority of their time – work!

Let’s read about some other practicing attorneys’ experiences during the middle of their pregnancy and see if this trimester is as uneventful as it seems . . .

“I was six months pregnant with my first child, and huge. I was at a hearing in the judge’s chambers. Opposing counsel asked when I was due, and I said in three months. The male judge looked at me in amazement and said ‘are you expecting twins?’ I said ‘no,’ and he was hugely embarrassed. Needless to say, I won the hearing.”

“I may be one of the only women who HATED being pregnant. (Or at least one of the only ones to admit it.) I was grouchy, to say the least. However, with that grouchiness came a positive. For approximately 25 weeks (after I went public in the office), I reveled in the fact that the men completely left me alone. I got more work done those 25 weeks because our male dominated office at the time treated me like I had the plague. It wasn’t mean–it was for their own safety and self-preservation. I was spared the hour-long football story distractions and petty arguments that come along with practicing law with an office full of brilliant A-type personalities. My partners also took advantage of my ‘grouchiness.’ I was the one who was always picked to have the controversial phone calls with opposing counsel (also men). It was a great way for me to vent my irritation–and useful, too, because we were preparing for trial all that summer with a very difficult opposing counsel. Needless to say–I usually got my way, and my husband enjoyed the fact that I was a little nicer at home!”

“While I was pregnant, opposing counsel was pregnant, too. Under the state rule, the duration of a deposition is severely limited, and I ended up having to ask the Court for additional time because of the number of bathroom breaks that my opponent took. She opposed the motion, but I was granted the additional time.”

Continue Reading Diary of a pregnant lawyer: Second blogmester

Being pregnant can be hard. Working while pregnant can be really hard. Practicing law while pregnant can be hard, really hard, and more.

As I sit here I am well into the third trimester of my first pregnancy. While typing this introduction, I have had to “go” three times, and I have my feet propped up on two unused computer bags under my desk because by the end of the day my feet look like wonky balloon animals. Looking back at my pregnancy journey, I am aware of how fortunate I am to not have a physically demanding job and to have had a relatively healthy pregnancy – though not without its bumps (in addition to my one big bump) along the way.  I am also aware, however, of the unique challenges pregnancy poses to professional women. Women and their employers should be equipped to handle these challenges. That is what this post is for.

Much like pregnancy, this diary is going to be divided into three “blogmesters”:

First blogmester: family planning and the first trimester;

Second blogmester: the seemingly uneventful second trimester; and

Third blogmester: working while getting ready to deliver, maternity leave, and post-partum issues.

Continue Reading Diary of a Pregnant Lawyer First Blogmester – Planning for Pregnancy and First Trimester

According to an article in bizwomen, for the last two years Wells Fargo has been building an external business strategy, known as the “women’s initiative.” Wells Fargo has been marketing specifically to women by educating their teams on why they should focus on women and how to market to women based on the differences in the ways that men and women do business.

It is clear that Wells Fargo wants women’s business. And for good reason. According to the bizwomen article, women-owned businesses are expected to make up 39 percent of all businesses by 2017.

I am reminded of the 2000 movie What Women Want. Mel Gibson plays a marketing executive who can hear women’s thoughts. He uses this tool to, among other things, better market toward women by working closely with his new boss in order to steal her thoughts and develop a marketing pitch to Nike Women. Before he got the “gift” (if you want to call it that) of hearing women’s thoughts, Mr. Gibson’s character was known to be a bit of a scoundrel.  Most of the movie consists of Mr. Gibson getting in touch with his feminine side in order to determine – wait for it – what women want. At the end of the movie, the final pitch to Nike Women is geared toward women runners. It shows a quiet, lonely road, occupied by a single woman running. The ad focuses on the woman’s desire to simply run on the pavement without superficial judgment or expectations. The women love it, Mr. Gibson’s company wins the pitch, Mr. Gibson’s character gets the girl, and everybody lives happily ever after.

But do men and women really need to be marketed to separately? Judging from Super Bowl commercials, it appears that the ad industry has already decided “yes.” You’ll get an eyeful of burgers, fast cars, beer, and babes (and I don’t mean infants). To keep the women interested, occasionally you’ll get Ryan Reynolds, puppies, wine, or babies (now, I do mean infants).

Every now and then, you may have a standout commercial that is clearly geared to women, like the 2015 Always “Like a Girl” commercial.

An article about the ad noted, “[T]he ad may be the first time a feminine care product was advertised during the Super Bowl and is a prominent example of how companies are trying to woo women customers are shifting advertising tactics.”

Should women be offended that we are being marketed to differently? Does this mean that we are really being reduced to wine, cuddly animals, and cute babies? (Not that there’s anything wrong with those things.) But a lot of women like burgers, fast cars, and beer, too. And a lot of men like wine, cuddly animals, and cute babies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Just because you like me . . .

The “Like a Girl” campaign teaches us that society has applied different norms and expectations to young men and women, some of which persist, but it also teaches us that women are rewriting the rules.

According to a 2015 report by First Round Capital, tech startup companies founded by women performed better than those founded by men. Yet, there are only 24 female CEOs in the S&P 500. Is this because of the glass ceiling, or are smaller tech companies – as opposed to the more traditional companies included in the top 500 – providing women leaders with more attractive opportunities? Possibly, both.

HotRodGirl.flickrCC.InsomniaCuredHere
. . . doesn’t mean you can’t like me, too.

The “Like a Girl” campaign and the Wells Fargo women’s initiative are run by women. Given the growing number of women-owned businesses, the success of tech startups founded by women, and the stark reality that women are still not running very many S&P 500 companies, programs like the “women’s initiative” and the “Like a Girl” campaign are less about differentiating women from men and more about responding to real changes and providing women leaders with the tools to be successful in their own way, whether as a small business owners or as CEOs.

It is a recognition of differences in how women and men succeed, and how they define success. Recognizing these differences must not be demeaning to women. Companies should recognize that women leaders are here, important, and growing in number, and that their different styles, needs, interests, and goals are contributing to positive change in business. Companies like Wells Fargo, who help women-owned businesses to grow, will reap the benefits of their success. More companies should follow that example, not by singling women customers out for their femininity, but by recognizing that women have something to offer to the success of a business. All will benefit in the long run.

Still image credits: From flickr, Creative Commons license. Kitten by Orest Schvadchak, still from Hot Rod Girl (1956) by Insomnia Cured Here. 

It is fall of 2011.  I am participating in a mock trial tournament.  I am defending a (pretend) driver in a (fake) personal injury lawsuit.  I deliver the opening statement and I cross-examine the plaintiff.  After the trial, I sit by nervously awaiting comments from the judges.  I received many well-deserved compliments and critiques.  I will never forget, however, what one of the female judges said to me:

I thought you were great; you really drilled the plaintiff on cross.  But, a word of caution.  I think you are walking the line between being “assertive” and being too “aggressive.”  People often find aggressive females off-putting.  I think the problem is the color of your shirt.  It is too blue.  Try wearing a softer, more feminine color next time, like a pale pink.

FloraFaunaMerryweather2
“Pink!” “No! Blue!”

Yes … my shirt was too blue.  I was appalled at first.  But, looking back on what I am sure was meant as well-meaning advice, it all makes sense.

Female attorneys are held to certain unique standards or truths. (See Heidi Wilbur’s great take on it here.) I have been educated on all of the female golden rules since becoming a law student.

Rule number one: Don’t argue for a raise based on merit; rather, ask for a raise so that it seems like you are asking for “help.” As in, men like to be needed by women, so don’t go into the board room making demands, but rather, appear meek and needy.

Rule number two: Never wear pantsuits in court. Believe it or not I have witnessed many lawyers and judges make comments about “pantsuit” women.

Rule number three: (which has been told to me by an actual sitting judge) Keep your hair pulled back in the courtroom because long hair is distracting.

Rule number four: Don’t be overly aggressive with your witnesses, or the jury will hate you.

Rule number five: Don’t raise your voice, even when making a passionate point, or you’ll sound like Hillary Clinton (gasp!).

Rule number 6, 7, 8, 9 . .  .: Wear panty hose (Editor’s note – I actually heard a judge say this recently in Florida); wear heels; always be nice; and never cross the invisible line from assertiveness to b****iness.

Alas, the list goes on.

You might as well tell me to strive to be like Kate Middleton.  Because that is totally possible.

Be careful of that blue Kate!
      Be careful of that blue, Kate!

Being taught to follow all of these rules as a law student and young lawyer meant I could no longer dream of screaming like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men (1992):

“You can’t handle the truth!

 Jack Nicholson (as Col. Nathan R. Jessep) Nicholson’s shouted response to Tom Cruise (playing Lt. Daniel Kaffee) in the movie A Few Good Men (1992).

Or exclaiming like Jim Carrey in Liar Liar:

And the truth shall set you free!

Or even quoting My Cousin Vinny:

Everything that guy just said is bullsh*t!

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Ok, maybe I would never say “bullsh*t” in court, but it is nice to have the option. The saddest part about all of these rules we have been taught is that often they continue to be perpetuated by women. Even I am guilty of passing these rules down to young women I have mentored who ask me for attire and trial advice.

Then, in 2014, I was fortunate to come to Constangy. (For those of you who haven’t heard the good news, Constangy was recently rated by the National Law Journal to be fourth best in the nation for women lawyers.) I have been exposed to so many progressive female role models who have taught me to embrace myself as I am, to say “the hell with” female stereotypes, and by golly wear whatever the heck I want so long as it is professional in the context of the situation. I’ve watched women from our firm make witnesses cry, best opposing counsel at heated arguments, and all at the same time manage to be the most nurturing mothers to their children and make it to their kids’ games and recitals.

Jessica Miranda

My message to our women (and men) readers is this: embrace yourself and surround yourself by others who encourage this as well. I also want to formally take back all the times I told my college mock trial students to not be so aggressive in the courtroom, to wear pearls, and to always pull back their hair. You too can be Lt. Daniel Kaffee, Fletcher Reede or even Vinny Gambini if that is who you are. Say to hell with the rules, and for goodness sake, wear your blue shirt.

Image Credits: From Google, Creative Commons license: Flora, Fauna and Merryweather; flickr, Creative Commons license:  Jessica Miranda in blue blouse; www.quote/counterquote.com: photo of Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men (1992); http://sylvssilverspoon.blogspot.com: photos of Kate Middleton.