Many of us have now been working from home for two full weeks. We are discovering the flaws in our home office setups and the challenges of social isolation, or more accurately, physical isolation.

My heart goes out to lawyers who are working from home while looking after young children. Nothing could train us for juggling Zoom meetings with supervising toddlers and children with short attention spans.

I remember having a day at home when my oldest son was about 18 months old and having to take a call on a file. This was way before people were used to lawyers working from home. I was working on a reduced hours arrangement—but we didn’t tell clients that I wasn’t in the office everyday. Part way through the call, my son opened the fridge door, took an egg off the shelf and dropped it egg on the floor. His face lit up with delight as it smashed on the floor.

As he reached for the next egg, I jammed the phone between my shoulder and ear and grabbed a mixing bowl out of the cupboard to put on the floor in egg-dropzone. He got bored after 5 or 6 eggs and then had scrambled eggs for lunch after my call was over (and I had picked out all the bits of shell.)

One of my friends whose kids were a few years older than mine had a great go-to when she had to work from home and the kids were interrupting. She kept a box of Smarties in her desk and would call out “Treasure hunt” and strew the contents out into the hallway. I used that trick at least once (but usually had trouble with keeping Smarties in my desk—I just ate them 😊).

These are challenging times--we are hearing about lawyers who look after elderly family members and lawyers with family members on the front lines of the health care system and a lot from lawyers feeling anxiety and stress.  Everyone is worried about how to keep their families safe and keep their jobs or earn enough to tide their families over until “normal” returns, whatever “normal” is going to be.
Assist can connect with you using online media during the COVID-19 crisis.

Remember that Assist has professional counselling available to you and your family—4 sessions per person, per issue, per year. You can have a session online or over the phone during this time of social distancing. I used for a session with my personal counsellor last week and can attest to how well online counselling can work. But if you aren’t comfortable with the online platforms, telephone counselling works well, too.
We asked Terry Lindberg, R. Psych., one of Assist’s counsellors how he found online counselling from a therapeutic perspective. Terry said
"Telepsychology, more specifically therapy via video-conferencing or telephone, is relatively new to me, and yet I’ve been surprised how effective it can be as a tool to both start a therapeutic relationship and support my existing clients. Although I prefer meeting in person, when circumstances requiring physical distancing like COVID-19 exist, it is the next best thing! With video in particular I can see and hear my clients (words, body-language, tone of voice) so I know when to hold silence and can see when they need more support."
Clients read and sign a consent form for telepsychology and once any questions have been answered, they are emailed a link to enter a secure, virtual waiting room prior to the session.

Crisis counselling is available by telephone 24/7 at 1.877.498.6898 (just follow the prompts). If you feel that you are near the end of the rope and that the part between you and your anchor is fraying, please call. We may not be able to change the way that COVID-19 is impacting our lives, but our counsellors can help you identify strategies to cope.

Peer support is also available online or via telephone. Sometimes we just need to talk to someone who has walked in shoes like ours, or is walking in them now for solidarity. Call us at (1.877.737.5508) or text us at 403.616.1138 so that we can connect you with that someone.

We are even doing our free weekly yoga class online!  Last week, we pioneered our online free weekly yoga class via Zoom. We had 29 participants from across the province and beyond. It was great—I felt refreshed and relaxed as I put my mat away and went back into my small home office. Next class is Wednesday at noon—see below for more details.

Check out our COVID-19 resources collection on our website. We have added a fabulous youtube video plus an ebook called FACE COVID by Russ Harris, showing practical strategies for coping with the pandemic, and resources for talking to your children about COVID-19. We are watching any funding announcements from our Prime Minister that might help lawyers and law firms since we know that it has harder to generate and collect billings during this time. You are not alone if you are worried about weathering the financial storm. We are posting information about programs that may help small and mid-size businesses on the COVID-19 section of our website. We are not entirely altruistic—some of these programs help not-for-profits like Assist who aren't fundraising during this crisis!

Stay tuned for details of our webinar series in collaboration with the CPA Alberta Assist and Forbes Psychological Services. So far, three webinars have been set: 
April 15th - Mindfulness - Thamarai Moorthy
April 22nd - Fitness - Matt Cairns
April 29th - Mental Health during the Pandemic - Laurie Zalmanowitz

We hope to be announcing a Parenting During the COVID-19 Crisis session as well.
Sadly, our Foreign Trained Lawyer Presentation previously scheduled for May 14, 2020 has been postponed to a time where we can gather in groups again.
And finally, Assist has postponed its Annual General Meeting which was scheduled for April 15th. The requirement for societies to hold annual meetings and file annual reports has been suspended ( We are looking forward to sharing updates about 2019 with our supporters once we are able to hold meetings again. Big thanks to the team of volunteers working on how we were going to put our financial statements before the annual meeting of members—we really appreciate the way this group came together to try to help not only Assist but other not-for-profits without as much access to lawyers.
Please follow Assist on social media or visit our website to learn how we are creating connections for lawyers during this time. 

VIRTUAL  Noon Flow Yoga Class for Lawyers,
Articling Students, Law Students and their families!!!
What a cool collaborative effort to have 29 lawyers, articling students, law students  AND some of their families spend time together doing virtual yoga last week! Danica will be back on Zoom on Wednesday, April 1 at 12:00 noon with a free, live, virtual flow yoga class you can do from the comfort of your own home! Class will be held on Wednesday, April 1, from 12:00-12:50. She will walk you through an accessible yoga class that will help you breathe and de-stress. If you are worried about your skill level or whether you are up to it, just put a note in the RSVP below. Danica will do her best to suggest modifications for you if you are new or out of practice. 

For those of you physically distancing in your homes, we suggest pulling your whole family together and have some social fun with it.
 Wednesdays at 12:00 noon - 12:50 PM
in your very own home.

You will need to sign up for this class.  We have changed it this week so that Danica will send a Zoom invitation meeting request to me and I will forward that invitation to you. 

We have made the difficult decision to cancel the April 4 training class. We have not set a new date yet. So, there is still time to get into the Calgary training class!

Are you an empathetic lawyer who cares about your peers, would like to help your fellow lawyer, and wish to join a group of the most amazing volunteers ever? We have the position for you!

Just as every human is different, so are each of our needs. We have 10,000 lawyers in Alberta and Assist wishes to fill our volunteer roster with a wide variety of volunteers to help all lawyers brave enough to call in to ask for help.

As a peer support volunteer, you would be looking at a training time commitment of 5 hours on a Saturday (with free lunch & breakfast) and after that, the hard part is waiting for the phone to ring to use your new peer support skills. Peer support volunteers who are interested in speaking about Assist to lawyer groups or writing articles for our communications, can support us in those ways as well.

We are pioneering some new peer support delivery models to respond to the needs of articling students and junior lawyers as identified in the Law Society Articling Student Survey. We are offering drop-in peer support at the Courthouse Cafeteria and also near both law schools, and peer support/practical tips for internationally-trained lawyers.

If this is something that interests you, give us a call! Our next training sessions are:
Calgary:               TBA
                             Field Law Calgary Office
Edmonton           June 13th, 2020 at 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
                             Field Law Edmonton Office

We would love to hear from you!
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