Real Property Law
A Special Focus Interview: Health and Wellness
Please note the Real Property 39th Annual Real Property Spring Conference has been canceled. This article was written prior to the cancellation. For more information about the cancellation, click here.
Interview by John (J.R.) Richards
So we are all really excited to hear more about the CLA Real Property Spring Conference, can you give us a thumbnail outline about what you are offering?
ASHLEY: The Spring Conference has been one of the annual signature events of the Real Property Law Section for the last 39 years. Elizabeth and I have had the pleasure of working on the conference planning committee for the last two years. This year’s conference will be held at the Westin St. Francis hotel in downtown San Francisco from April 23 to the 25th. When Elizabeth and I started brainstorming this event, we decided we wanted to try some new things this year. In collaboration with several other CLA sections, we formulated the idea of hosting the Cannabis Law Symposium in conjunction with the Spring Conference. The Symposium is a single day track of MCLE programming focused on cannabis law topics on Saturday, April 25.
The conference will kick off on Thursday April 23 in the evening with a welcome networking reception with hosted food and beverages. Our substantive CLE programming will commence on Friday morning, with a special lunch appearance from David Kelly, the Chief Legal Officer of Business and Basketball with the Golden State Warriors who will be speaking on diversity in the legal profession. Friday evening will be a hosted networking reception with wine tasting from various wineries in the local region. Saturday April 25 will be the Cannabis Law Symposium CLE programming as well as simultaneous general real property law programming. Saturday’s lunch keynote speaker will be Jessica McElfresh, a San Diego attorney, who will be speaking on the ethics of representing cannabis clients and sharing her story involving attorney-client privilege. The conference will conclude on Saturday evening with a closing cocktail reception.
I see that you are offering several Health and Wellness activities, can you tell us more about those?
ASHLEY: Health and wellness are very important to Elizabeth and me so we wanted to dedicate this year’s conference to the theme of “mindfulness.” We are thrilled to be able to offer attendees of the conference complimentary morning yoga and meditation sessions, and a morning running group that will chart a 3-mile loop along the harbor. We are excited to have Ritu Goswamy, an attorney and productivity consultant who will be presenting her seminar on “The New Billable Hour” which focuses on incorporating mindfulness into your legal practice to increase productivity. We also welcome esteemed San Diego attorney, Gary Laturno, who will be speaking on the topic of “How not to Die” and healthy life changes that can help us live longer and how that might affect our competency as attorneys.
What are you personally looking forward to with these activities?
ELIZABETH: I have been an endurance athlete for about twelve years so I am really excited about the running group. Being a triathlete, I love how calming the triathlon training is for me. I think that, as attorneys, we consistently deal with stressful situations and training just helps to release that stress.
ASHLEY: I am personally very excited for the morning yoga and meditation sessions. I’ve started incorporating yoga into my exercise routine and absolutely love it. It combines body strength, stretching, cardio and meditation. As a busy attorney, I make a point to schedule time every day for some form of exercise because it is the only way I can decompress and de-stress after a long day at work. I also love the meditation aspect to help calm my mind and help me focus on my breathing.
What inspired you to include Health & Wellness activities?
ELIZABETH: Ashley and I are both health conscious and we both believe that health and wellness are important to helping attorneys be better attorneys.
ASHLEY: As lawyers, we work hard every day in our jobs to achieve success, money, and notoriety. It is no surprise that achieving these goals often comes at the cost of stress, anxiety and sleepless nights. Too often, we forget to focus on our personal health and well-being, which somehow gets brushed aside in the legal profession. The legal industry has trained us to become emotional and analytical counselors for our clients which can be draining, demands us to meet deadlines and rigid time schedules, and encourages spending long hours in the office. Our careers often don’t promote a healthy work-life balance, or the mindset of putting our personal health first. Taking time out of our busy schedule to meditate, exercise, eat healthy, and establish meaningful relationships will go a long way in making a positive impact on our emotional well-being and overall sense of happiness in life.
I personally have experienced some recent health issues which were triggered by work stress that have completely changed my perspective and outlook on life. I started to experience digestive issues which got progressively worse over several months, almost to the point of checking myself into the hospital. After weeks of tests and various medical procedures, I was officially diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in February. For those who don’t know, Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease that affects the large intestine or small intestine. After my diagnosis I did everything I could to learn about the disease, treatment options and long-term management. I was put on a medication treatment plan with my gastroenterologist which has helped with my symptoms significantly, but it is my goal not to be on medications long term. I have learned that it is possible to achieve remission with this disease by carefully managing my diet and nutrition and keeping stress levels low. In light of this, I made the conscious decision to put my solo law practice on hold temporarily to focus on healing. I turned away all new clients for two months and limited my hours in the office. I started going to yoga more regularly (since that was about all I could do as far as exercise due to the fatigue), and meditating daily, and switching to a completely dairy-free, gluten-free, paleo diet. These changes have greatly impacted my healing process.
What do you personally do for your own health and wellness?
ASHLEY: I have always considered myself a very healthy person. I love to cook healthy meals and enjoy trying out new recipes, so food and cooking has been a big part of my life, especially post Crohn’s diagnosis. I am very active and do some form of workout daily, whether it’s yoga, Pilates, tennis, running, hiking, walking, or biking. Travel is one of my biggest passions, so I make a point to book at least one international bucket list trip each year. This summer I’m super excited to be going to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. I am also hoping to plan a trip back to Greece in September. When I don’t have the time to do a longer trip, I enjoy booking smaller weekend getaways or spa day retreats.
ELIZABETH: Up until about two and a half years ago when I was in a horrific car accident, I trained for and completed multiple endurance races, including several half iron distance triathlons (which consists of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run). Even after my injuries in the car accident, I am determined to get back to it and have another half ironman race on my calendar. It definitely keeps me grounded and balanced. I also walk or run with my dog, Maya, on a daily basis.
Along the lines of health and wellness, what inspires you?
ASHLEY: Lately I have been on a podcast kick. I have been listening to several different podcasts on diet, nutrition, autoimmune diseases, gut health, stress management, and wellness. I’m a huge fan of Jay Shety’s podcast “On Purpose” and have found many of his podcast episodes to be very inspiring. I also follow the podcast “180 Nutrition – The Health Sessions” with Stuart Cooke which has provided a lot of helpful information on autoimmune diseases and nutrition.
Have your planned activities been well received? How many people do you expect?
ASHLEY: We have received an overwhelmingly positive response to our focus on health and wellness at the conference. In fact, the CLA recently formed its own committee dedicated to health and wellness which JR, you are part of. I am excited to see what the CLA committee will do to help implement this focus on all events the CLA puts on going forward. I personally feel health and wellness has never been a focus in the legal world or even in law school, and we need to bring it to the forefront of people’s minds and start having more open dialogue about it. It’s not just limited to diet and exercise; it’s also related to mental health which is so important.
I know that my alma mater law school California Western is starting to implement programs and offerings to law students that are health and wellness focused, and our San Diego County Bar Association is also encouraging more programming on mental health, substance abuse, and meditation. So we are starting to see this health and wellness trend emerging in the legal community, but it’s happening very slowly.
It’s a pretty unique concept, what ideas or advice would you give to other sections thinking about presenting something similar?
ASHLEY: It would be amazing to see other sections continue this trend with a focus on health and wellness in their programming and activities. Personally I would love to plan an entire day event focused on health and wellness for attorneys which would include educational programming, exercise classes, meditation and breath work classes, and mental health and substance abuse awareness. I hope to have that idea come to fruition this year.
Did you have any difficulties lining it up?
ELIZABETH: One of our amazing staff members, Beth Rotticci, contacted several local San Francisco running companies and meditation people and we were able to quickly line up the people that we have coming to do these activities at the conference.
Who’s leading the run? How did you solidify that relationship to get that done?
ELIZABETH: The run is being led by A Runner’s Mind, which is a local running store in San Francisco. I thought of them because I have completed a couple of half marathons in San Francisco and met staff from A Runner’s Mind at one of the race expos (where runners pick up their bibs and other race swag). I suggested to Beth that we contact them. Thankfully, they said yes and are sponsoring the running sessions at the conference.
Who’s leading the yoga and meditation? How did you solidify that relationship to get that done?
ELIZABETH: The yoga and meditation sessions are being led by Blake Hayter.
Do you count the opening and closing receptions as part of your health and wellness? What is the benefit of social events?
ELIZABETH: We haven’t considered the opening and closing receptions part of the health and wellness at the conference, but social interaction is definitely an important part of anyone’s health and wellness. We hope that attendees will enjoy the food and drinks provided at the receptions and will meet other attendees.
Have you had any health and wellness programs that worked well in the past?
ELIZABETH: Gary Laturno presented his topic of “How Not to Die” at our 2018 Real Property Retreat and it is our section’s most sold CLE. Therefore, Gary is coming back to present an update on this topic at the 2020 Spring Conference. Given that this program is our section’s most sold CLE, we know that health and wellness topics to our section’s members.
Any great speakers or topics that you would like to see or cover in the future?
ELIZABETH: We receive so many great program ideas each year for this conference. We hope that attendees and members of the Real Property Law Section continue to submit their ideas. Our programming is great because of the great ideas and speakers who step forward to present at our conferences and other activities.
What kinds of health and wellness activities or topics would you like CLA to do, cover or otherwise pursue?
ELIZABETH: Ashley mentioned the day of health and wellness activities that she hoping to plan in San Diego. It would be amazing if CLA would plan stand-alone regional health and wellness events in addition to incorporating these health and wellness activities into CLA’s conferences, which is what we are doing with the 2020 Real Property Spring Conference.