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Lotus-Law brings the benefits of mindfulness to lawyers

The lotus is an inspiring organism to Toronto-area family lawyer Nicolle Kopping-Pavars.

The spectacular flower springs from a surprising environment — thriving only in swampy, muddy water — and has come to represent the process of enlightenment in far eastern cultures.

“When it’s ready, it rises above all the muck and blooms into a beautiful flower,” she explains to AdvocateDaily.com. “It’s the same with human beings. We have the choice of sitting in the muddiness of our lives and accepting our place there, or we can truly rise above it all.”

The plant gives its name to Kopping-Pavars’ newest venture, Lotus-Law, which was formed to offer mindfulness training to lawyers.

Properly practised, she says mindfulness and meditation can help lawyers fix a major hole in their training.

“We’re told to focus on the facts and leave our emotions at the door,” Kopping-Pavars says. “But what people don’t realize is that it’s impossible to do, so all the emotions come through us without being identified. That's why we’re angry, frustrated and lashing out all the time.”

Kopping-Pavars, who is also principal of NKP Law, knows these issues all too well, having turned to mindfulness in 2009 in search of a solution to her own difficulties.  

“I was going through a rough patch, struggling to find this work-life balance people talk about,” she says. “If I wasn’t at the office, sacrificing time with family and friends, then I was thinking about what I should be working on, which was making me tired and stressed all the time.”

Over the years, Kopping-Pavars has developed techniques that help people gain control over their emotional responses by understanding the way their bodies and brains work. By developing an awareness of processes, such as the virtually automatic “fight or flight” response activated by the amygdala in the brain, they can stop it from being triggered as often. 

“I teach everyday mindfulness, which is all about knowing what is going on in the body at any given time, so you can recognize that overwhelming feeling before it takes over,” she says.

While she has had requests from lay people to teach classes, Kopping-Pavars created Lotus Law to focus exclusively on lawyers.

“The legal brain never turns off. We’re always thinking about clients, and it can be difficult to go on vacation without bringing your work with you,” she explains. “Lawyers have very specific triggers, and I wanted to be there for my community.”

While Kopping-Pavars hails the Law Society of Ontario’s Member Assistance Program for lawyers struggling with mental health issues, she says it only tends to kick in once an individual hits a crisis point, often following a bout of substance abuse.

“There’s nothing to prevent people from getting there,” she says, adding that mindfulness training could be an intermediary step to help lawyers cope with problems before they take over their lives.

Her early tentative steps into the area came when Kopping-Pavars introduced “Meditation Mondays,” encouraging lawyers and staff at her firm to start their week with 10 minutes of meditation. She then advocated for the creation of a dedicated wellness room when her firm and others recently moved to brand new offices.  

“It’s not a shared lounge or kitchen, but a beautiful space geared towards meditation and calmness,” she says.

At Lotus-Law, Kopping-Pavars has developed her own programs after taking a nine-month mindfulness teaching program designed specifically for lawyers and travelling to the forests of Thailand for an intensive two weeks devoted to its study.

"To further my own practice and teaching, I completed a mindfulness teacher training certification through the teachings of the venerable Luang Por Pramote Pamojjo from Thailand," she says, adding that she's also a teacher on Insight Timer, a meditation app with users and instructors all over the world. 

Kopping-Pavars offers lawyers the chance to choose one-on-one mindfulness mentoring, or group sessions, with regular workshops on Thursday evenings, and six-week courses scheduled throughout the year.

“Some prefer being in an environment with other people because there is less pressure and you can hear what questions others have about the process,” she says.

Kopping-Pavars also offers sessions for larger law firms.

“They want to get the most productivity out of their employees, and if people are taking excessive sick leave and drinking too much, they’re not going to be working to the best of their ability,” she says.

“When they feel supported, employees are going to be much more valuable and produce better quality work. We can bring some strategies and tools to law firms to help them do that.”

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