At 5pm on a Thursday, singing emerges from the seminar room. Students and clinical instructors sit around the table. Staff from other centers linger as they exit the building. No, HLAB hasn’t started a choir. Lisa Fitzgerald ’16 is treating the Bureau to a private concert, as part of the new self-care initiative.
Donna Harati ’15 began the self-care initiative in the fall of 2014 to help other Bureau members ensure they take care of their mental health, so that they can provide quality legal services to their clients—in the short and long term.
Since its inception, students have organized weekly activities to take a break from clinical and coursework. Activities include knitting, meditating, touch football, making pasta and decorating gratitude jars.
Jordan Raymond ’16 has always recognized that she needs to carve out time for self-care. “Self-care is paramount to me. Sometimes, when I feel drained, I drive to the beach because that’s my happy place and that’s where I can find peace. It’s nice that we are trying to create those peaceful spaces here at the Bureau.”
The Bureau’s self-care initiative subscribes to many models of and philosophies of self-care. Students, clinical instructors and staff alternate in facilitating activities that help them feel grounded.
“There’s no one correct way to take care of yourself, and I’ve learned a lot from what other people have shared. Personally, I like cooking to de-stress, so I led a session in pasta making,” said Nick Pastan ’15.
Clinical instructor Lee Goldstein led a session on meditation and mindfulness in the fall. “Without a mindfulness practice, I couldn’t begin to understand all the players—our clients, opposing parties and their lawyers, judges and court personnel and most of all ourselves—in this stylized kaboke drama known as lawyering. It enables me see myself as an actor detached from the drama, from ‘outside’,” Goldstein said.
Students hope that integrating self-care into their lives now will start a pattern to last through their careers. Harati reflects: “My experience in law school has been that this profession does not prioritize self-care and instead lionizes an ‘at any cost mentality’. I think it’s important for us as students to have space to figure out what works best for us in terms of self-care. I can’t say it better than Audre Lorde, ‘Caring for myself is not self indulgence, it is self preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.’”