Enjoying What You Do

Enjoy what you do for a living – a goal a lot people are unable to attain. Many people may look at the legal profession as one with a lot of stressed, overworked, and tired individuals that can’t possibly be happy. While those things may be true for a lot of attorneys, I don’t think that serves as a mutual exclusion to happiness. In fact, I have found some of those most taxed are in fact blissful underneath it all.

I recently joined private practice, having come from a background in government public service, wondering whether I could enjoy what I do more. It’s a precarious situation, moving from a job you already like and hoping for something better. Some major adjustments including billable hours and marketing I knew would be challenges, but all seemed manageable from an outside perspective. Several of my peers advised against moving away from my comfortable surroundings, perhaps due to their own experiences and apprehensions about taking risks, but I took the leap anyway.

Perhaps I’ve been lucky with the bar community I practice in or the firm I found, but I really believe it’s more about the attitude with which you approach it all whether you get what you need out of it. Whether it’s an animated discussion of strategies, appreciation for a newly discovered approach or argument, or energized banter about cases— for me, these all situations don’t feel like work. It hasn’t hurt that there have also been some added perks since making the transition to private practice, like attending the national DRI conference in Boston earlier this fall!

Having started with the firm only a few short weeks before the conference, it felt like something of a whirlwind to be off traveling to some big professional gathering, but there I was. In Boston I had my bearings as I was returning to the city where I went to law school just a couple years prior, so I felt confident with that familiarity. The rest was a little overwhelming until I got a little perspective. While introducing me around to various members of the DRI community, one of my firm’s partners confided, “I didn’t have a me, when I was you.” It was then I stopped to think about why I had the attitude I do about what I do and it has been largely influenced by the mentors I’ve acquired along the way…

I have been collecting mentors since before I even went to law school – they are not all lawyers themselves, but each has played an important role in my career. Whether it was helping me get established with my first job, guiding me through learning the practice of law, or just believing in me, these people have all taught me in their own way how to enjoy what I do. You likely know who you are, as you are probably the only people reading this blog, so thank you!

We got published!

I was honored to be asked to write this column for the Defense Research Institute publication “For The Defense” – I have been a DRI member for over 21 years, and enjoyed every minute of it. Please take a moment to read this column from the June 2016 issue. For more information about DRI, visit www.DRI.org. – Dick Tucker

 

DRI News, For The Defense, June 2016

DRI News, For The Defense, June 2016

Your Best Investment

palm trees“Investing in yourself is the best investment you can make. It will not only improve your life, it will improve the lives of those around you.”  Robin S. Sharma

In February, I had the pleasure of attending the DRI Women in the Law Annual Seminar in lovely Scottsdale, Arizona. I felt a tad guilty at the thought of being able to jet off to this resort setting in the middle of winter, but I was assured by the senior partner at our firm that this was a worthwhile venture, and who was I to argue?

Walking in, I knew none of the 250+ female defense attorney attendees. I volunteered at the registration table, knowing it would make it easier to connect. By the end of the first half day, I had met and interacted one on one with new business contacts, learned some do’s and don’ts about rainmaking and pitching to a client, and had a lot of fun in the process.

Over the course of the next couple of days, I was inspired by the energy of this amazing collection of powerful women, all of whom want better for their clients, their practices, themselves and their families. Discussions and presentations ran the gamut from controlling damages to workplace bias to succession planning to finding your bliss! Most of the sessions were chock full of practical applications. Even the ones that didn’t specifically apply to my area of law contained useful nuggets, beneficial to any type of practice.

By the time the conference was over, many of those contacts had become new friends, and I walked away knowing that I was a better version of myself as a lawyer, a business associate, and a person than when I walked in. All that and sunshine to boot. Not a bad investment.

A Prescription for Murder

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“The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year.” John Foster Dulles

For the first time in US history, a doctor has been convicted of murder related to the over-prescribing of controlled substances. According to CNN, Hsiu-Ying, 45, was found guilty last week of 23 counts, including 19 counts of unlawful controlled substance prescription. The charges were based on the deaths of three young men, all under the age of 30.  

In the insurance defense world, we see claimants of all ages who are prescribed opioids for many different types of injuries, despite efforts in the medical community and beyond to limit this manner of treatment to only the most serious conditions. The CDC has examined multiple programs and published the most common guidelines related to initial and ongoing assessments, drug testing, pain treatment agreements, monitoring, and appropriate discontinuance of opioids. Even with these resources available, many physicians still haphazardly prescribe these controlled substances that keep their patients coming back again and again. While the financial impact on our clients is significant, the societal costs are even more dramatic.

Prescription drug abuse is at epidemic proportions. Here in Maine, there are questions about whether we are doing enough to combat the problem, as evidenced by this 2013 article in the Bangor Daily News.http://bangordailynews.com/2013/10/14/opinion/five-more-laws-to-help-stop-maines-prescription-drug-epidemic/  It’s important to remember that this problem can affect, not only young people, but also unsuspecting middle-aged adults who are simply looking for real relief from pain. Choosing physicians that are conscientious and responsible in their prescription practices could save your life or the life of someone you love.

DRI in DC

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“If you are resolutely determined to make a lawyer of yourself, the thing is more than half done already.”  Abraham Lincoln, 1855

Over the last week, members of our firm attended the DRI Annual Meeting held in Washington, D.C. This was my first DRI event, with the fortunate exception of being a guest at a reception in San Diego a few years ago (held on the deck of the USS Midway!) The experience was inspiring, enlightening, and a whole lot of fun!

DRI is an international organization of defense attorneys and in-house counsel. Member attorneys defend the interests of business and individuals in civil litigation, and DRI provides access to resources and tools to those members, thereby facilitating high-quality, balanced and excellent service to their clients. The educational seminars are top-notch, with presenters who excel in their fields. Networking opportunities abound, and continuous sharing of information through various field-specific committees and online forums provides an endless wealth of information and inspiration.

This year’s Annual Meeting, held with the backdrop of our nation’s capital, proved to be no exception to the usual outstanding fare, according to those who had previously attended. For me, a newcomer to the organization, I frankly could not have been more impressed. With speakers such as General Colin Powell and Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who chatted with us about their years of experience negotiating for our country, and Robert O’Neill, the Navy Seal from the elite Seal Team Six that took down Osama bin Laden, who has become a masterful motivational speaker, it’s hard to imagine a more captivating line-up.

I look forward to next year’s meeting, to be held in our backyard of Historic Boston.  It is sure to be a first-class event!

Are you Properly Discontinuing Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Maine? Read on to Find out.

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Under Section 213 of the Maine Workers’ Compensation Act, employees are entitled to up to 520 weeks of lost time benefits when their incapacity is partial (they remain able to work) and their whole person permanent impairment does not exceed statutory thresholds. Once permanent impairment below the threshold is established and 520 weeks of benefits have been paid, an employer is entitled to unilaterally discontinue partial incapacity benefits being paid voluntarily or to seek a Board Order allowing it to discontinue benefits being paid under a Board-ordered payment scheme.

Before discontinuing benefits in either scenario, employers need to be aware that the Board’s Rule Ch. 2(5)(1) requires them to send written notice of the discontinuance to the employee at least 21 days before the expiration of benefits.

The Board requires that the following paragraph be included in the notice verbatim:

If you are experiencing extreme financial hardship due to inability to return to gainful employment, you may be eligible for an extension of your weekly benefits. To request such an extension, you must file a Petition for Extension of Benefits within 30 calendar days of the date that benefits expire, or, in cases where the expiration date is contested, within 30 calendar days of a final decree as to the expiration date.

Notice must be sent even if a decree finds that a discontinuance is in order! Please keep in mind that failure to send the required notice will automatically extend an employer’s obligation to pay lost time benefits for the period that the notice was not sent.

We urge employers and insurers to ensure that policies and procedures are in place to send the required notice to employees whenever benefits are discontinued due to the expiration of the Section 213 durational cap.

Moving forward: Always a win-win!

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“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Socrates

While it may be difficult to know if in fact Socrates actually wrote those exact words, the concept they encompass certainly seems reasonable, if not inspired. Why spend so much time worrying about and focusing on the past, when you could, instead, find ways to move forward and make the best of a situation? Trying to change the past is like trying to fix a flat tire by rolling the car backwards to get off that nail…it just doesn’t work! The better solution is to get out the jack, get out the spare, and change the tire! Or find someone to help fix it. In short, focus on finding a solution to the problem at hand, rather than exhausting yourself trying to undo what can’t be undone.

How much time do we spend fretting and arguing, especially in the legal world, over what has happened? Some might say that, from a legal standpoint, that’s the majority of what we are doing…it’s what we are supposed to do. We are supposed to get to “the TRUTH.” Yet, in actuality, whatever has happened is water under the bridge, and often, the better approach is to focus on moving forward with solutions that make situations bearable or even better for all the parties.

For instance, a recent seminar discussed the creative methods utilized by the Maine Drug Courts, where they take a team approach to address somewhat competing issues of public safety and drug addiction. In those cases, defendants meet directly with the judge and other team members on a regular basis as part of a drug rehabilitation plan. As perpetrators, they are held accountable for their past actions, but as human beings they are treated with respect and a level of understanding moving forward. Defendants are supported through the process, with an eye towards recovery and hopefully a new life that doesn’t involve criminal activity. It’s a win-win for everyone when it works! Given the ever growing drug crisis in the state, these special courts are balancing the need to address serious criminal activity with the reality that addiction is often a major contributing factor to the behavior.

Someone mentioned at the seminar, “Wouldn’t it be great if all our courts could be like that?” Would we get different or better results if, in an ideal world, a supportive team could come in and help to resolve all litigated issues? Would people who felt wronged choose to forgive, rather than litigate? Would wrongdoers see the error of their ways and change their behavior? While such an approach is not likely to solve all legal woes, the concept of moving forward with solutions is always a winner. That’s why it doesn’t really matter whether Socrates actually wrote those words or not…the point is how we use them.