Five Perspectives: Doing Well By Being Well

Friday, May 31, 2024
Hands up to the sun

In May, we recognize Mental Health Awareness Month and celebrate the Institute for Well-Being in Law’s (IWIL’s) annual Well-Being Week in Law. Both campaigns aim to raise awareness about mental health, with the latter encouraging action and innovation across the legal industry to improve well-being all year round.

Members of our firm recently shared how they are fulfilling the various dimensions of our ML Well program this month and every day, including the benefits they’re experiencing to their well-being as a result of their participation in ML Well’s comprehensive approach.

As an inaugural signatory to the American Bar Association’s Pledge on Lawyer Well-Being and a founding Champion of IWIL, our ML Well program is a unique, holistic approach to promoting well-being that supports our lawyers’ and professional staff’s intellectual, emotional, physical, and occupational health as well as community engagement.

ML Well provides educational programming focused on how to design lives of meaning and fulfillment, incorporating aspects of physical activity, community development, and service. Additional resources include Wellable, an award-winning technology platform that hosts fitness, nutrition, and mindfulness challenges as well as provides on-demand health tips, holistic webinars, and newsletters on trending well-being topics.

Physical: Christina MacDougall

Christina MacDougall

In San Francisco, partner Christina MacDougall meets the mission through open-water swimming—regularly exceeding six miles! Christina completed her first official marathon last summer, across Lake Tahoe (12 miles), and is now training for a second, pegged at 21-plus miles. Daunting? Hardly. “Swimming is one of the few activities that immerses you in a completely different environment, and open-water swimming requires situational awareness of everything, including the water itself. This allows me to disconnect from work for a true mental break. It is also meditative, but with movement. While I love being an attorney, being able to disconnect allows me to release stress and helps me to be a healthier and happier human!”

It doesn’t all come easily. “A lot of marathon swims start in the dark or continue long enough that you wind up swimming in the dark. It took a lot of mental energy to even begin to practice this, especially in the San Francisco Bay where, yes, there are sea creatures. I remember my first night swim thinking something could eat me! So, open-water swimming also provides you with opportunities for problem-solving and perseverance.”

“Every swim I have ever done has had some issue—goggles that leak, ear plugs forgotten, nutrition just not working. For my Tahoe swim last summer, my swim cap would not stay on. But I learned to build those challenges into my swim—adjust cap, have nutrition, keep swimming. Oh, and you don’t stop for nutrition ‘feeds’—your support crew throws you a bottle on a rope with a sugar water–electrolyte solution.”

In the photo above, Christina swims in the San Francisco Bay. 

Intellectual: Natalee Stanton

Natalee Stanton

Legal practice coordinator Natalee Stanton in Boston fulfills ML Well’s intellectual dimension through her evening studies at Suffolk University Law School, where she is entering her third year. Pursuing the degree aligns with the well-being initiative, she says, “as it requires dedication to engagement in learning, studying, and tailoring your thinking. When I’m not working or in class, I am studying, reading, or listening to podcasts about the subjects I’m currently studying.” That’s dedication.

But is it stressful? “Although law school consumes a majority of my time, it has taught me balance, and I am now more present and relaxed during my free time. Through law school, I have made friendships that will last a lifetime and enjoy embarking on this journey with them.” Simultaneously, Natalee revels in “the unique opportunity to experience the ‘real world’ of being an attorney—from first-year associates to partners.”

In the photo above, Natalee stands on the campus of Suffolk University Law School.

Community: Sarah Bouchard

Sarah Bouchard

Philadelphia Office Managing Partner Sarah Bouchard has been fulfilling ML Well’s community dimension through impactful service on two important nonprofit boards. As chair of the American Heart Association’s local board, she has had the opportunity to transform a personal shock into the pursuit of public progress. “I got involved with the Heart Association’s ‘Go Red for Women Campaign’ in 2019 because my mom is a heart attack survivor. Her 99% blockage—plus our panic—caused me to become very interested in awareness about different types of women’s symptoms. The association also helps with food insecurity in the region and is raising awareness of the science around food as medicine.”

Sarah always serves on the Philadelphia regional board for United Way, an organization focused on reducing poverty in the region. “People often blame the poor without realizing the systemic barriers they face,” says Sarah. “For example, a lot of people want to work, but maybe a nonviolent criminal record hampers that. Confronting and trying to remove those barriers also has clear impacts on community members’ physical and mental health.”

“I love what I do at Morgan Lewis, and my involvement in these organizations not only gives me energy and perspective but has also made me more grateful,” she adds.

In the photo above, Sarah and her mom attend an event to raise awareness about women’s heart health and well-being.

Emotional: Catherine McNamara Cuneo

Catherine Cuneo

Catherine McNamara Cuneo, a senior manager of Cloud Solutions & Mobility in our Philadelphia office, has been fulfilling the initiative’s emotional dimension as a longtime practitioner and certified instructor of yoga and meditation. She began practicing yoga in 2008 after years of meditation practice. “Meditation and the practice of yoga are integral to my daily life, helping me manage stress, anxiety, and moments of feeling overwhelmed,” she says. “These practices also enhance my ability to stay present in the moment, which I find enriches my relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. Over the years, my yoga practice has transitioned from a predominantly physical practice to one that is more holistic, blending movement with meditation.”

For her, it was not a matter of flipping a switch. “In 2008, I returned to college, aiming to earn my degree in computing technology and security. At the same time, I was working full-time at Morgan Lewis and raising my 2-year-old son. I took a yoga philosophy class, which required a weekly yoga class. I initially practiced Ashtanga and Bikram yoga before discovering Vinyasa and Yin. I was inspired to share the benefits, so I became a certified Vinyasa teacher in 2016.”

“Since then, I’ve expanded my knowledge and training to include Baptiste, Yin, Yoga Nidra, and Meditation, earning several certifications. In addition to sharing the benefits during the classes I teach, I also guided meditations for our Information Technology department during the pandemic and guided meditations for the firm when we first returned to the offices.”

In the photo above, Catherine poses in trikonasana, triangle pose.

Occupational: Reece Hirsch

Reece Hirsch

Partner Reece Hirsch, co-head of our privacy and cybersecurity practice, has been fulfilling the occupational dimension of ML Well through a different kind of pulse-pounding hobby than Catherine: writing thriller novels. He’s had six novels published and is currently finishing a seventh. “Writing fiction has provided a nice change of pace from my work at Morgan Lewis,” he says, “even though I draw extensively upon issues that I’ve encountered as a privacy attorney in my thrillers. My first book, ‘The Insider,’ was published in 2010, and it was a thrill to see that paperback in airports and on the shelves of retailers like Barnes & Noble.”

But is this a source of relaxation? “Even though writing is hard, when the writing is going well, I’m not thinking about anything else,” says Reece. It also provides him with a sense of involvement that transcends his everyday practice. “In 2011, ‘The Insider’ was a finalist for ‘Best First Novel’ from the International Thriller Writers. I’ve also served on the board of directors of the Northern California chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know other mystery and thriller writers and readers at conferences, and it has been nice to become a part of that community.” Read how novel writing has enriched Reece’s work in Law360.

In the photo above, Reece addresses his Morgan Lewis fans following the release of "Black Nowhere."