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Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience: June 2024


Eric York Drogin


  • Life coach Angela Barnard has identified four preparedness-related wellness benefits.
  • The law’s emphasis on preparedness helps you thrive and survive in the real world.
  • The National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being found six pillars of preparedness that boost well-being. 
Preparedness Long

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“Preparedness” is a notion that became emblazoned on the national consciousness as we began gearing up in earnest for our looming participation in the First World War.

We looked around and realized that were anything but “prepared.” How were we going to get millions of people “over there”? Our stock of rifles consisted mostly of pieces from 50 years earlier—useful for stateside training, perhaps. The U.S.O. wouldn’t come into being until the next “war to end all wars,” and after all, Bob Hope was still only 14 years old.

According to the folks at, only approximately 2.8% of attorneys are military veterans. This may come as something of a surprise when we consider how litigators handling high-stakes matters can construct set piece legal maneuvers that make the Siege of Pompeii look like a pickup basketball game. What can go wrong? Everything. What can be allowed to go wrong? Ask trial counsel’s clients, paralegals, malpractice carriers, and old law professors. 

One of my own old law professors—at least, in his mid-30s, he seemed old to me and my classmates at the time—preached the gospel of preparedness at every turn. Yes, as you may already have guessed, he taught business tax courses. Like a boss. Like The Boss. The best instructors can make reviewing any topic feel like a rock concert. We would have held our lighters aloft at the end of every lecture, but even back then the law school had a hair trigger sprinkler system.

This professor’s favorite nugget of preparedness advice was simply, “If you want to make sure you get something done on time, treat it like it’s due two weeks earlier.” In the almost 35 years since I graduated from law school, I tried this once or twice. I suspect this means I did it more often than any of my classmates. The relief such behavior affords is actually tremendous. 

I looked up my old professor on the law school website this evening with no little trepidation, well aware of the fashion in which time has overtaken most of those who recklessly agreed to propel me toward the bar exam all those years ago. He’s still there, thank goodness, with the same knowing smile. I should go and thank him someday. If all else fails, I’ll bet I can track him down at the local post office on April 1st, when he files his taxes. 

“Readiness” is not the same thing as “preparedness.” If all we are is ready, we’re not prepared. The abilities to commit, to respond, and to follow through are valuable and indeed highly prized by those with whom we do business. Without preparation, however, we’re as likely as not going to be forced to fall back on well-honed and intertwined instinct and experience—but these are ultimately no substitute for having read the briefs, having interviewed the clients, and having internalized the facts.

The sort of “reactionary thinking” exemplified by a disproportionate emphasis on “readiness” was addressed in a recent article by Michael Preston, who until recently was the executive director of the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities, which is based at the University of Central Florida. Folks in Central Florida know a thing or two about preparedness, regularly grappling as they do with hurricanes sweeping in from the coast, alligators wandering into their backyards, and waves of marauding mosquitoes rising from the swamps. Under such circumstances, one learns to accentuate the positive—in this instance, the manifold wellness benefits of preparedness.

According to Dr. Preston, life coach Angela Barnard has identified four preparedness-related wellness benefits in particular:

Self-Discipline, which serves to “keep you on task and always looking around the corner”;

Strategic Thinking, which enables us to “anticipate speed bumps and canyons and look for alternate routes and solutions before needing them” and to “react quicker than if your time were spent in reaction mode”;

Mental Flexibility, since by “putting aside the brain space to prepare we can then focus on other tasks and increase productivity in other ways,” in addition to which this “increases your ability to creatively solve problems so the exercise of preparing can also help when the thing you are unprepared for happens”; and

Resiliency, for “if the thing you fear does happen,” then preparedness will surely help us to be in a position to bounce back more quickly and easily.

In the meantime, it behooves one in certain parts of the country to speak softly and carry a huge can of Raid.

Such advice is by no means out of step with the established mental health literature. For example, the powerhouse PsycNet search engine sponsored by the American Psychological Association identifies well in excess of 200 peer-reviewed articles that refer at some level to the notion of preparedness.

Preparedness dovetails neatly with guidance proffered by the “National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being” (the “Task Force”), an entity “conceptualized and initiated by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP), the National Organization of Bar Counsel (NOBC), and the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers (APRL)” and made up of several other “participating entities” from within and without the American Bar Association. 

The Task Force has identified six pillars or “dimensions” that combine to “make up full well-being for lawyers,” one of which is the “Occupational” dimension, expressed by “cultivating personal satisfaction, growth, and enrichment in work”. Unlike much of the guidance regarding wellness and legal practice—which often espouses the point of view that the benefits of the former can only follow from creating as much distance as we can from the habits formed by the latter—the law’s emphasis on preparedness translates with almost suspicious ease into something quite valuable for thriving and surviving in the real world.

It seems the Scouts were truly onto something, well over a century ago, when they presciently made “Be Prepared” their standard, especially when they asserted further that this had to do with both “mind and body”. 

Reprinted with permission of the Kentucky Bar Association