Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/19)
Family, The Profession

Nicolle Kopping-Pavars teaches mindfulness for lawyers

Toronto-area family lawyer Nicolle Kopping-Pavars is a strong proponent of mindfulness training for lawyers and judges and is breaking new ground to help those in the legal profession better equip themselves for work/life stresses to lead happier lives.

“It’s about wellness and lawyers need this,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Kopping-Pavars, principal at NKP Law, runs a successful practice that focuses on collaborative family law, mediation and fertility law (surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation and embryo donation.) She is also an Agent for the Office of the Children’s Lawyer and a Collaborative Law trainer.

She is dedicated to helping families who are going through transition.

Kopping-Pavars earned a law degree in South Africa before immigrating to Canada in 2001 and obtained her Canadian law degree through the University of Ottawa (National Committee of Accreditation.) She is currently a lawyer in good standing in both South Africa and with the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Kopping-Pavars worked as a family law clerk and completed her articles with a prominent family law boutique in York region.

She accrued a wide range of experience in the law profession in South Africa before coming to Canada, which included being selected to cross-examine Winnie Madikizela Mandela at the Truth and Reconciliation Hearing in 1999, and appearing on CNN.

Kopping-Pavars became passionate about mindfulness as a result of some challenging circumstances in her life, including being robbed at gunpoint in South Africa. Growing up there, she witnessed violence and crime as a part of daily life.

“I was robbed while having a gun to my head,” she recalls. “There were many break-ins at my house — there was too much crime around me.”

Certainly, her life hasn’t been without its share of obstacles. In order to practise law in Canada, she was required to "re-do" her law degree while working full-time with two small children at home, says Kopping-Pavars. 

In 2008, she began a journey of personal self-development that included reading many books, attending workshops, seminars, talks and Zen retreats; she became a Reiki practitioner and developed her own dedicated mindfulness practice, which she continues to do every day and includes daily meditation and mindful awareness.

“It changed my life; it changed how I deal with people,” she says. 

Kopping-Pavars describes mindfulness as learning how to understand one’s mind. 

“It’s a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's thoughts and bodily sensations,” she says. “Mindfulness helps us wake up from automaticity and unconsciousness, so that we can live our lives with complete access to the full spectrum of our conscious and unconscious possibilities.”

It taught her to deal with stress so that when her heart starts beating rapidly or her palms start to sweat, she understands more about what is happening, which allows her to figure out how to deal with it, she says. 

Through her own self-help work she began to notice how lawyers in general are stressed and depressed, some or much of the time.

“The statistics were showing that in 1996, lawyers overtook dentists as the profession with the highest rate of suicide and that 15 to 20 per cent suffer from alcoholism or some form of substance abuse,” she says. “I just started thinking, ‘This is insane.’”

That drove her to look into what services law societies and legal professional associations provide to support lawyers in this way. She was surprised to learn there aren’t as many services available for lawyers that she feels is necessary.

Kopping-Pavars also decided she wanted to enrol in a course called “Mindfulness training for lawyers” so that she can learn how to help those in the legal profession. She continues to take the course.

“I’m really interested in emotional intelligence and learning about how our brain works,” she says. 

Kopping-Pavars launched “Meditation Mondays” at her firm, which attracts a number of lawyers who attend the sessions. She also introduced yoga to the York Collaborative Practice group where a lawyer who teaches yoga comes to the office once a month to teach yoga and relaxation techniques to lawyers and practitioners.

“I want to share the techniques that exist to help deal with life’s daily stresses," she says. 




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