President’s Message: December/January 2019

PCBA President David Nelmark

Ever feel overwhelmed?

I do.

Frankly, I’m a little overwhelmed right now—trying to meet the deadline for this letter while resisting a Motion for Summary Judgment on one matter, prepping for trial in another, and addressing various firm management issues.

Practicing law is a noble profession, but it’s not an easy one. No matter how busy we are, we generally say “yes” to new clients or new projects because we’re afraid to turn away work. Then, despite the challenges of the job, we act like superheroes because we feel we have to appear strong for our clients.

It’s no secret, and really no surprise, that lawyers have high rates of addiction and mental health issues including depression. This holds true for both seasoned attorneys and those new to the profession. Even if we avoid those issues, we’re at a high risk for other problems including divorce and burn out. That’s probably not the cheery holiday message you were expecting, but I think it’s important that we keep these issues in mind as we face the additional pressures of the giving season.

If you are feeling overwhelemed, I suggest two things that might help.

  1. Talk to someone. A friend or colleague might provide some useful coping tips, and it’s always nice to know you’re not alone. If professional help is needed, the Iowa Lawyers Assistance Program ( or 800-243-1533) is free and confidential. Many firms and corporate employers also offer employee assistance hotlines.
  2. Focus on your own physical and mental health. Don’t wait for things to “let up” to do this. If you don’t schedule the time, it may never happen. The PCBA periodically offers CLE or seminars related to wellness. Informal efforts can also be useful. We all know the benefits of diet and exercise, but if those are not in the cards, any hobby that relieves stress can be beneficial.

If the above doesn’t apply to you, and everything is smooth sailing, I’m happy for you. But, it’s still important to be aware of these issues because not everyone is in the same boat.

Be understanding if someone is not as civil as they should be. You don’t know what’s going on in their world.

Give your adversaries that extension they want – even if they don’t articulate the best reason. Maybe there is a more personal reason they don’t want to share.

In short, let’s cut each other some slack. It’s in the spirit of the holidays; and, while this job is still tough, it’s a little easier and a lot more enjoyable when we support one another.