People’s well-being has been an important and common topic throughout the pandemic — but some organizations, like the Colorado Supreme Court and the Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program, have been working on well-being since before COVID.
During the pandemic, one of CAMP’s main focuses was a pilot program helping legal organizations to improve or create lawyer well-being programs — which could turn into a statewide program offering similar opportunities for legal groups across Colorado.
J. Ryann Peyton, CAMP’s executive director, said that the onset of the pandemic really gave CAMP the opportunity to step back and reflect on expanding the work being done, particularly attorney well-being.
The biggest mission-related project that CAMP undertook during the first year of the pandemic was to lead and facilitate the Colorado Supreme Court’s Lawyer Well-Being Recognition Program for Legal Employers, Peyton said. This pilot program grew out of the court’s task force on lawyer well-being.
The task force looked at what wellbeing pain points might exist in the legal profession and what types of resources, tools or programs could be developed to address those points, Peyton said. One of the ideas created by the task force was whether Colorado should have a recognition program similar to the Pro Bono Recognition Program, but for legal employers taking active steps to improve well-being in their organizations. “And whether that kind of program would be beneficial to Colorado lawyers,” she said.
As a result, between late 2019 and early spring 2020, a pilot program was shaped to test out the theory, Peyton said. The pilot program launched in July 2020 with 27 program participants ranging from large law firms to government law offices, and legal departments, small firms and mid-sized offices.
“We really tried to have a diverse set of program participants,” Peyton said. Those 27 groups worked together in a cohort-based model, where they met quarterly between 2020 and 2021. The groups were provided education, training, opportunities for group mentoring and a curriculum of best practices on lawyer well-being that could be implemented in their own organizations.
While some organizations were starting from scratch in terms of well-being initiatives, others were far along in the process and were looking for support and additional best practices to build out and sustain wellbeing initiatives.
The Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program, which provides confidential assistance to the Colorado legal community for personal and professional issues, was very involved with the program — helping with educational presentations and wellness, well-being and behavioral health consultations, said Sarah Myers, the COLAP executive director.
“The Program was highly rated by participants, and demonstrated a high level of commitment and dedication to well-being on the part of legal employers, which is a sign for positive change,” Myers told Law Week.
Over the summer, each organization created a well-being action plan that was tailored and different for each group, she said. Some were very focused on a written action plan, while other organizations did videos, and others PowerPoints, outlining what well-being work was being performed and where they were at in the beginning and at the end of the program.
Throughout that time, quantitative and qualitative data were collected to give an idea on whether or not a similar program could be successful and sustainable statewide, Peyton said. A report outlining that data is scheduled for release in the coming weeks, in addition to the group’s recommendations.
In some ways, the fact that the organization was forced into using virtual options for meetings due to COVID restrictions turned out to be very beneficial, she added. In the pilot program, the original plan was for half-day, in-person meetings including lunch, opportunities for networking and training.
“But under that model, we really could only accommodate like one person from each organization — both in terms of space and budget, and… the human capital,” Peyton said. “In moving it to a virtual platform, we were able to accommodate a lot more people.”
By getting input from sometimes as many as five different individuals from each of the 27 organizations, the conversations during the pilot program were much more robust, she said. This also gave participants an opportunity to really bring more people into their organization’s well-being initiatives, in turn creating more opportunities for training, working and group mentoring “in a way that I think that just would not have been as successful in-person.”
“What our data shows, as we preview into the report, is that the virtual aspect didn’t diminish anyone’s experience in the program,” Peyton said. “And, for most folks, it made it more accessible and inclusive to be able to jump on a Zoom call, and not have to travel.”
Peyton said she believes that these factors really helped individuals and organizations commit to the well-being initiatives for the long run.
For the future, she said that the serendipitous necessity of remote options for the program might help in the creation of a future program across the state. Assuming the court wants this program to move forward, Peyton said that it would require an online/remote component to engage folks beyond the metro areas and connect them with well-being support wherever they are in Colorado.
“And already having a model for how we can center cohort and group mentoring around well-being in a virtual platform is something we can easily replicate down the road that will be beneficial to the whole state,” Peyton said.
Prior to the pandemic, it was tricky to find mentors in smaller communities across Colorado Peyton said. However, during the pandemic and the shift to remote meetings, promising signs of non-metro lawyers having an interest in CAMP programs emerged. She added that many people were interested in CAMP’s Mentoring Circles and Coffee Lists throughout the pandemic.
Peyton said she was also surprised by the level of buy-in many pilot program participants had on the virtual platform, given the level of video-call fatigue that most people experienced in their daily lives by the middle of 2020.
“It just didn’t happen — which I think is a testament to both the program as well as how the program was developed in making it meaningful,” Peyton said.