As a law firm that exclusively handles personal injury matters, we are in the trauma business. Day in and day out, we represent people who are struggling. We represent people whose lives have turned on a dime, and through it all, we try to be a stable, supportive presence. We check in with each client to see how their treatment is progressing. We send them birthday cards. Some clients even become extended family members to us, sharing photos of their new grandchildren and updates on their lives. We believe it is critical to see our clients—to really see them—to represent them the way they deserve.
But to be fully present for our clients, we need to make sure the entire firm is also getting the care and attention they need.
Prioritizing employee mental health during Covid-19
Connecticut Trial Firm hires intentionally. We hire team members based not only on skill but on their capacity for empathy. But here’s the catch: empathetic people feel deeply. Their sensitivity is beautiful, but their emotional armor can be flimsy. I’ve seen team members leave the office in tears after a difficult phone call. It’s not easy to talk to a client whose family member died tragically without allowing that sadness to creep into your own life.
When the Covid-19 quarantine began, we, like the world, shifted to working remotely full-time. My pre-pandemic role was one of many hats. I work behind the scenes to help the firm run smoothly in finance, marketing, client communications, and human resources. With the shift brought on by the pandemic, my role expanded to regular check-ins with the team to make sure they were doing okay psychologically. I talked with them about the difficulties of work while watching small children and what we were doing to stay sane while confined to our houses.I listened while they cried and assured them we understood these pressures—no one would lose a job because of homeschooling duties. I wish I could say I handled all of this well, but at some point, the load became so heavy that I had to take a step back before I broke. I’m sensitive, too.
Weaving mental health into firm operations
We have always put a spotlight on wellness at Connecticut Trial Firm. Employment benefits include gym memberships and subscriptions to apps like Peloton and Headspace. “Work out, meditate, and know that we’re all in it together” is the message.
But in the age of Covid, it’s not enough. With a need for outside help, the firm began using Spill, a service that provides our team with free help from licensed mental health professionals. With Spill, our team can access a library of resources, ask a question of a therapist (e.g., how do I deal with burnout?), or schedule 50-minute online therapy sessions. Spill offers management teams two sessions a year to discuss topics like identifying emotional distress and having difficult conversations. The best part? Everything is confidential and complies with HIPAA.
Impact of professional therapy resources at a law firm
It would be an understatement to say our team was enthusiastic about the Spill benefit. Therapy, often, is not covered by insurance, and when it is, the cost remains out of reach for many. Within a week of our launch, three team members had signed up for a full session.
Our firm's favorite feature of Spill is the Wall of Praise. The Wall of Praise allows us to anonymously shower a team member with encouragement by answering the prompt, “What makes [name] great is ____.” We try to model gratitude daily, but focusing on a team member and everything we love about them has brought something special to our firm.
Setting up personal injury firms for success with a focus on self-care By providing our team with the mental health support they need, we hope to underscore the importance of self-care—especially when their job is caring for others. Our ultimate hope is that we will all emerge from the challenges of Covid stronger, more resilient, and more compassionate than before. Additionally, we understand that our business is taxing mentally. With expanded benefits like mental health resources, we are setting up the firm for long-term growth by ensuring that employees and leadership have access to resources needed to maintain well-being—which allows us all to show up for our clients stronger each day.
Allison McKeen works behind the scenes to help Connecticut Trial Firm run smoothly, wearing hats in finance, marketing, and human resources, to name a few. She also writes many client communications, including blog posts, trial preparation materials, and newsletters. Allison earned her Juris Doctor from Western New England University, cum laude, and is an internationally published author. When she is not working, she enjoys spending time with her family (her husband Ryan is a founding partner of Connecticut Trial Firm), reading, baking, and engaging in mildly eccentric do-it-yourself projects.