‘Don’t Steamroll People’: These Personal Injury Lawyers Are Learning How to Unwind
New Britain attorney Kevin Ferry said it was important for his mental health to be more mindful in his life. So Ferry opened his doors to fellow attorneys who also want to slow it down in their personal and professional roles.
By Robert Storace | March 10, 2020 at 12:56 PM
Among those attending the monthly mindfulness meetup for attorneys in New Britain Monday evening were, from left to right: Heather Adams of Hartford-based Conway Stoughton Attorneys at Law; Cara Cavallari of the Law Office of Kevin Ferry; Kevin Ferry of the Law Office of Kevin Ferry; West Hartford solo practitioner John Montalbano; yoga practitioner Leslie Gordon; and Monique Foley of the Law Office of Kevin Ferry. Photo: Robert Storace/ALM
How did New Britain personal injury and criminal defense attorney Kevin Ferry get passed his “slash-and-burn approach” to cross-examination?
Ferry said the rigors and stress of the job made him want to “make drastic changes” in how he approached work and his clients. He now gives clients compact discs and books on meditation and yoga, has created an in-house wellness studio for his six employees, pays for free monthly massages for staff, and closes the office twice a year to volunteer for a nonprofit.
Realizing there were other attorneys who wanted to slow down, breathe a little easier and practice mindfulness, Ferry opened his small Lexington Street office to fellow attorneys to come to do just that: breathe easier with yoga practitioner Leslie Gordon and practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness, Ferry said, means different things to different people. For him, “it’s more about connecting to people on a more personal level.”
“With mindfulness you can stop spinning your thoughts, quiet the mind and connect to nature,” he said.
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Last month, Ferry, 54, and about half a dozen fellow attorneys met in the law office basement to slow it down. They did so again Monday evening for two hours.
This time, five attorneys and Gordon came together for food, wine and beer and a seven-minute meditation and breathing exercise. Then, they talked about their day and their profession, and watched 45 minutes of a video about how seeds from around the world affect our daily lives.
“Mindfulness also means being in tune with the world,” Ferry said. “Watching television is easy. Mindfulness, though, is everything. Become present. Do not watch TV. Start to connect, and start to care about the world around you.”
Sessions might focus on exercises, such as yoga or Tai Chi, or involve a discussion about a book, nature or the environment.
‘Balance in my life’
For Heather Adams, an insurance litigation principal attorney at Hartford-based Conway Stoughton, the sessions are vital.
“The practice of litigation is so transactional,” she said. “Mindfulness can make me an advocate for change.”
West Hartford solo practitioner John Montalbano said the sessions create a sense of community.
“I want this to give me balance in my life,” he said. “I enjoy that everyone shares their backgrounds, and we talk about the books we’ve read. And I like rubbing shoulders with like-minded people.”
By day, Montalbano handles personal injury and workers’ compensation matters.
“Being a lawyer is stressful, and being a solo is another added level of stress,” he said. “I’d like to be calmer and more centered. And I think coming here helps me do that.”
Organizer Ferry said he’d love to have 100 people attend the monthly gatherings.
“There is no agenda, no marketing just people who want a calmer presence in their life,” he said.
For his part, Ferry said he’s been practicing mindfulness for several years now, and credits it with making him a better person and a more efficient attorney.
“I’ve learned when to pick my battles and where to focus my energies,” he said. “For example, I used to have a slash-and-burn approach on cross-examination. Now I just do my job and don’t steamroll people.”
During closing arguments at a recent jury trial, which he won, Ferry read from Lao Tzu’s “Tao Te Ching.” The book focuses on wisdom and contentment.
“Reading those passages helped me connect with the jury,” he said. “About four of the jurors were even in tears.”
The next gathering at Ferry’s office is set for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on April 13.