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New ISBA committee promotes healthy living for lawyers

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Attorney Michael Gabovitch said he generally works from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, plus a few hours on the weekend. The busy father of four doesn’t have much free time, but he’s found a way to make time for fitness.

Gabovitch used to exercise in the evenings. But because his office at Katz & Korin in downtown Indianapolis is just a few blocks from the fitness center in the OneAmerica Tower, he found that he could make better use of his time exercising during the day.
 

gabovitch-michael-mug.jpg Gabovitch

“Whenever I find I have an ability to sneak out for a little while, I head over there,” he said.

Gabovitch is among a handful of attorneys who use the equipment in the downtown gym. And incoming Indiana State Bar Association president C. Erik Chickedantz would like to see more lawyers finding time to get away from their desks.

Chickedantz has spearheaded the bar’s new Wellness Committee in an effort to promote a healthy lifestyle for attorneys.

“The idea behind this is not to tell judges and lawyers how they ought to live their lives,” he said. “But being a lawyer, being a judge is, for a number of reasons, a high-stress environment. High stress over a period of time has a lot of byproducts, and most of them are bad.”

To each his own

Mark Waterfill works in the OneAmerica building at Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff.

Three to four days a week, he puts in 30 or 45 minutes on the gym’s treadmill or elliptical trainer.
 

waterfill-mark-15col.jpg Mark Waterfill, partner at Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff, takes a late-afternoon break to exercise in the OneAmerica Tower fitness center. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

“I’m not the picture of a fitness person – I’m a low-impact fitness person,” he said. “My doctor recommended, rather than trying to go on some kind of strict diet, to just try to make sure that I exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week – and that could be walking briskly, riding a bike or pushing a lawn mower – along with muscle strengthening. Body-weight exercises like push ups and sit ups can be part of a weekly muscle-strengthening program. And while the CDC recommendations may sound overwhelming, breaking up exercise into 10-minute increments may make it more manageable.

Collateral benefits

In addition to feeling physically healthier, Gabovitch sees other benefits to regular exercise.

“Even more so than the physical benefit is just the mental benefits of knowing you’re doing something for yourself – getting exhausted and sweatinfitness-time.gifg is just therapeutic, and I think it helps keep you sharp not only physically, but mentally,” he said.

Taking time away from the office to exercise allows him to be alone with his thoughts, Gabovitch explained, while not having to worry about incoming calls or other matters.

“That time that I’m working out during the day is one of the few times during the day where I’m really by myself,” he said.

Chickedantz, who was a runner when he was younger but now gets much of his exercise through golf and trips to the gym, also understands the mental benefits of exercise.

“Google ‘regular exercise’ and ‘stress,’ and you’ll find that it helps reduce stress in most people,” he said. “It’s not rocket science.”

Chickedantz said that he admires the Indiana Supreme Court Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program. Attorneys who run afoul of codes of conduct and end up in JLAP support programs could possibly have avoided those problems by being better to their bodies – exercising, eating properly, drinking alcohol only in moderation and giving up smoking.

“(JLAP) gets involved when the horse has bolted out of the barn,” Chickedantz said. “So last year, we thought, let’s think of doing something proactive.” JLAP executive director Terry Harrell is a member of the Wellness Committee.

Chickedantz said that the Wellness Committee is still a work in progress, but it has developed a wellness plan law firms can adopt.

Wellness in the workplace

Stephanie Smithey, an attorney for Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart, often helps companies craft wellness plans, and it’s a practice that’s caught on in recent years, she said.

“In the early 90s, nobody ever talked about wellness plans,” she said. “After the 90s, you started hearing about this as a concept, and little by little, employers started initiating this in the workplace.”
 

smithey-stephanie-mug.jpg Smithey

Smithey, co-author of the Indiana Employer’s Guide to Workplace Wellness, said any company that is considering developing a formal workplace wellness plan – one that ties employee health to reduced health care premiums – should seek the input of an attorney familiar with that area of law. But plans that are not directly tied to insurer discounts are relatively easy to put together, she said.

“Let’s say you’re a law firm, and you want to have an annual wellness fair – that can be a very informal program,” she said. “There are going to be very few hoops to jump through.” But she said that if an employer were to offer a health insurance discount to someone who tests within a healthy blood pressure range, that would introduce a “whole range of laws” that employers would need to carefully consider.

Neither Gabovitch nor Waterfill work at firms with wellness plans, they said, although Gabovitch said he’s developing a proposal for such a plan to be implemented next year.

What’s next

The Wellness Committee kicked off events at the ISBA’s annual meeting this year with a 5K run/walk. About 40 people attended, and Chickedantz said, “We’re hopeful that a couple years from now, we may have hundreds.”
healthy-eating.gif
The committee will look at ways to partner with other similar events that already have a robust following, like the Susan G. Komen For the Cure race.

Creating and organizing new fitness events is a lot of work, and Indianapolis already has quite a few of those, Chickedantz said. “So our idea was to try to be a small-time collaborator with those events and try to get as many lawyers, judges, law students involved, and at least have a presence.”

Chickedantz said the committee is also working to develop wellness committees in Indiana’s four law schools because law students also encounter a lot of stress in their academic pursuits.

Waterfill said that lawyers, for their own well being, must learn how to break away from their work.

“We get so wrapped up in our work that, a lot of times, it’s hard to make yourself do that,” he said.

Chickedantz agrees that simply making a commitment to get moving can have a profound positive impact on personal health. For example, he said that regardless of anyone’s political views, people would be hard-pressed to disagree with the principles of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, which aims to curb childhood obesity by advocating for healthier eating and increased physical activity.

“If the whole society would pick up on that idea – and this is a big overgeneralization – the healthcare problems that we’ve got today, 30 or 40 years from now, would go away if people across the board would focus on wellness,” he said. “The best health insurance policy as far as I’m concerned is to not get sick, stay healthy.”•

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  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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