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Bar President's Message


Richard D'Addario, Esq., President, Rhode Island Bar Association

Helping Ourselves Richard P. D'Addario, Esq.
President, Rhode Island Bar Association

“..sharing the weight of our work with a helpful colleague can go a long way in getting the job done and in reducing the stress of our profession.”

There is no question that we all look to each other for assistance when we are faced with thorny legal or ethical issues in our practice. In addition, we certainly have a need to discuss personal matters in confidence with members of our profession, from time to time, in our careers. 

Bouncing thoughts and ideas off each other has always been an enjoyable and rewarding exercise for me in my years of practice. This is especially true when I may have dealt with a unique issue or novel legal problem. Under those circumstances, I usually feel increased pressure in getting to that issue in a prompt and responsive fashion, and leaning on my fellow colleagues has always been a reliable option for me. If we do not avail ourselves of this opportunity, we should. Otherwise, I believe we are missing out on one of the benefits of being a member of our profession.

I have always felt, as I’m sure we all have, that when a client brought his or her problem to me for legal help, that problem became mine as well. With that responsibility came the resulting stress from owning the client’s predicament as well as the feeling that I was then expected, and even required, to resolve or lessen that trouble. If it was a difficult or very important legal matter, the pressure and responsibility were enhanced. I am sure we have all experienced this reality in our practice.

Under these circumstances, communicating with each other is vital for all of us–sharing the weight of our work with a helpful colleague can go a long way in getting the job done and in reducing the stress of our profession.

The recent and continuing bout with the coronavirus has forced us to work remotely, most times alone, and lessened day-to-day contact with each other. This is the inevitable result of an increasingly digital world, where social and professional contact is more likely to be through a keyboard or smartphone than personal contact.

At the same time, our use of technology gives us access to social and professional support other than in-person contact, and we should embrace these additional opportunities to stay in touch.

For starters, our Bar Association operates a very active list serve where we can each bounce questions, ideas, and answers amongst ourselves. If you have not done so already, consider this as an option when you are seeking the support of your colleagues. The list serve is available without charge, and the reality is that it allows each of us to tap into the knowledge and experience of a vast number of highly skilled practitioners in this state. It certainly is a good feeling when you get an educated answer from another attorney who has experienced the same issue or problem, and, at the same time, it is rewarding to be able to provide information and advice, on occasion, to members of the bar in areas that you are familiar with from your own past experience.

In addition, we should all keep an open office and an open ear to our fellow colleagues. I have practiced as a solo for over 35 years, and I can’t tell you how many times I have relied on the input of my fellow members of the Bar and offered the same in return. My door is always open and my phone is always answered to anyone who contacts me with a legal question or wants to discuss a personal matter. I should note that I am fortunate to be a member of the Newport County Bar which is small enough to allow us to build professional bonds that support a collegial approach to our business. This approach should be followed by all of us.

A few years ago, I was asked by a client if I would meet with his daughter who had just passed the bar exam and was embarking on her legal career in this state. I gladly did so and hopefully provided some guidance to her as she had questions concerning legal, ethical, and business matters. I did so because I distinctly remember leaning on some of my more experienced colleagues in my early years of practice for advice, guidance, and encouragement. I can’t tell you how many times I was educated and encouraged by the words of some of the respected members of our Bar and judges in my years of practice.

I should also note here that our Bar Association has a valuable resource for technical and business questions that you may face in your practice. We have arranged with Red Cave Law Firm Consulting to provide free advice and information concerning the management of our practice, and everyone can take advantage of this rewarding benefit. I have done so myself, and Red Cave has been very helpful.

Finally, the Lawyers Helping Lawyers program of our Association provides confidential consultation on any personal issues we may face in our practice. Take advantage of it when necessary and make it known to any of your fellow colleagues who you feel could benefit from it when faced with personal issues of any kind.

The bottom line is that the practice of law is a very difficult and very responsible profession. We routinely take on important tasks for our clients, resulting in work-related stress that can overwhelm us. It behooves all of us to bond together and be available to each other – if we do so, we can make our practice more manageable and enjoyable.