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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    January 07, 2022

    Final Thought
    Resolve to Elevate Self-care in 2022

    Focusing on wellness is important for everyone, especially lawyers and other members of helping professions.

    Melinda J. Tempelis

    My dad was a doctor who treated cancer patients. I was always drawn to the difference he made in people’s lives. After a couple years as a prosecutor, I told him I thought our jobs were a lot more similar than I had originally thought. None of his patients or the crime victims I helped ever wanted to meet us professionally. When they did, it was because something awful was happening in their lives, they were facing a system they didn’t understand or want to know, and the path ahead was scary.

    Mindy TempelisMindy Tempelis, U.W. 2002, is the District Attorney for Outagamie County. She has handled all types of cases, but has a passion for prosecuting interpersonal crimes. As DA, she incorporates wellness initiatives in her office, including having a licensed therapist available monthly, wellness trainings, and annual wellness check-ups for prosecutors and staff.

    Tempelis is active on many multidisciplinary committees and organizations associated with the criminal justice system, trains on a variety of topics for the Fox Valley Technical College and the Department of Justice, and is a member of the Governor’s Juvenile Justice Commission and a board member of the Wisconsin District Attorney’s Association. Get to know the author: Check out Q&A below.

    Our task was to help: to bring our empathy, the skills and expertise we had learned, and our knowledge of the system to shepherd them through their trauma. Neither of us could promise a specific outcome, and sometimes, despite our best efforts, things didn’t turn out the way any of us would hope.

    Many of us, knowingly or unknowingly, carry our cases with us. Unfortunately, we don’t talk enough about the toll it takes on us personally or the impact secondary trauma has on us.

    I love what I do. But it also comes with great sacrifice. I have seen amazing people in my profession pay a huge personal price for the career they’ve chosen. Because on top of our day jobs, we also struggle with life’s challenges, such as caring for aging parents or for children and dealing with health issues. Now there is a pandemic. All of this can take a huge toll in obvious ways, like substance abuse or relationship issues, or in less pronounced ways in our minds, the way we think and burnout. For many, there is still a stigma to reaching out for help.

    Years ago, I watched as law enforcement agencies sent officers for annual wellness checks with a specially trained therapist and wondered why prosecutors weren’t doing that. Three years ago, prosecutors in our office were given the same opportunity. From there, they could access confidential employee assistance program (EAP) services for additional appointments. We also added monthly therapy hours.

    This year, make a commitment to take care of yourself. As you start looking at your schedule for 2022, set aside time to do some things you love and that will fill your cup. Maybe it’s scheduling coffee with a good friend or time in nature. Perhaps it’s cultivating a hobby or your creative side. I used to think therapy or EAP services were for people with “real” problems. I have found that a good therapist helps you learn more about yourself, holds you accountable to putting yourself first, and teaches new tools for meeting life’s challenges.

    As lawyers, many of us are fortunate to have great health insurance and EAP services, but we also have access to WisLAP, the State Bar’s confidential Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program. This year, let’s set aside the stigma of seeking help and putting ourselves first, and focus on our wellness. After all, if we’re taking care of ourselves, not only will we enjoy the personal benefit, we’ll also be better positioned to help others.

    WisLAP Can Help

    The Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program (WisLAP) offers confidential assistance to lawyers, judges, law students, and their families who are suffering from issues that affect their well-being and law practice.

    WisLAP 24-hour helpline: (800) 543-2625
    Visit: wisbar.org/wislap

    Meet Our Contributors

    Who is the most inspiring person you’ve ever met and why?

    Mindy TempelisMy paternal grandfather. At 16, he left his homeland, where he was a shepherd, to emigrate to the United States.

    I am amazed by his journey. He crossed U-boat infested waters, traveling 5,000 miles, to reach Duluth-Superior, while unable to speak English and starving. All for freedom and opportunity. He would find both here.

    I always think of him when I consider how people should be treated because he suffered discrimination and understood perhaps more than most people I know – along with my maternal grandfather, who fought in World War II – the value of freedom and security. He was unable to return to see his family for a half-century. And before his return, his brother was executed for advocating for liberty.

    His story reminds me that our freedoms are made possible only by those who fight to protect and uphold the rule of law.

    It took until he had a granddaughter to accomplish one of his biggest dreams: to have a lawyer in the family. I was the first to be sworn into the Wisconsin bar – which, among other things, would have been a virtual impossibility for a woman a century ago, when my grandfather first saw Lady Liberty.

    Mindy Tempelis, Outagamie County District Attorney, Appleton.

    Become a contributor! Are you working on an interesting case? Have a practice tip to share? There are several ways to contribute to Wisconsin Lawyer. To discuss a topic idea, contact Managing Editor Karlé Lester at (800) 444-9404, ext. 6127, or email klester@wisbar.org. Check out our writing and submission guidelines.


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