Finding Our Balance: The RCBA's Commitment to Wellbeing and Connection

Finding Our Balance: The RCBA's commitment to wellbeing and connection

By Kenya Bodden

We are looking forward to an exciting year for the Ramsey County Bar Association. This is RCBA’s first year of events following the restrictions put in place as a result of the pandemic. During the last couple of years, we learned a lot about ourselves, our legal community and the broader community as a whole. One of the things we learned is the importance of caring for our mental health.

Mental Health

Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, Lori Skjerven Gildea, spoke at this year’s MSBA Annual Convention reiterating the need to focus on mental health for the benefit of our legal community. Justice Gildea’s continued call for focus on mental health was stirred, in part, by a study performed by researchers for the American Bar Association and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. Researchers engaged with 13,000 attorneys and discovered that nearly twenty percent of attorneys surveyed struggled with anxiety, over twenty percent were problem drinkers1 and twenty-eight percent of the attorneys studied wrestled with depression. The RCBA, since its inception in 1884, has been committed to supporting and informing members of our legal community and community as a whole through continuing legal education, attorney referrals, networking and social events, leadership opportunities, and ways to give back to the community. Back in February of this year, I read an article published by NAMI, the National Alliance of Mental Illness, entitled “How Volunteering Improves Mental Health.”


Of course, there is not just one thing we can do to improve our mental health. Volunteering is one effective way to make improvements. Per NAMI, volunteering can reduce stress, increase happiness, and provide purpose. Volunteering can provide your brain with a reset and shift your mindset. The reset allows rest and space for new ideas and thoughts to benefit your practice. Focusing on tasks during volunteer activities can be a necessary break from the worries and stress that are a part of legal practice. Everyone needs a break and cannot always take a week or even a couple days to do so. A few hours of volunteering can provide a necessary respite. We all could use these benefits and it is with the improvement of mental health in mind we will be working on ways to increase volunteer opportunities for our membership.
When I first joined the RCBA, as a member of the Diversity Committee, we partnered with Families First and held an event at a local school on the East Side of Saint Paul. The event was a bike giveaway. The bikes were gently used, but refurbished, and given to young people at the event. I remember the feeling of being a part of supplying a smile and a form of freedom—a set of wheels to travel—to the children. That experience improved my mood and I still think positively about that event. Keep on the lookout for volunteer opportunities offered through our organization in the coming year. 

Networking and Social Events

After the past few years away from in-person RCBA events, we are able gather together again. Networking and social events are another terrific way to improve mental health. RCBA has many events planned for the coming year that are sure to put a smile on your face and help reconnect members of our legal community. Once a month, September through November 2022, and January 2023 through May 2023, please join us for the Green Line Lunches. These lunches are a wonderful way to break bread with members of the RCBA while enjoying great food in our local community. Keep an eye on our Events Calendar for upcoming dates.

Another great way to get together, RCBA Happy Hours hosted by our New Lawyers Section. These happy hours are another fantastic way to reconnect, socialize and network for members. The happy hours are held at various locations and provide an enjoyable way to spend a Thursday evening, for a couple of hours, creating connections that last a lifetime. Charlie Shafer and Racey Rodne, RCBA New Lawyers Section Co-Chairs, and Tommy Johnson, RCBA New Lawyers Section Social Chair, have organized these social events for new lawyers. Please see our upcoming events page for more information and watch the Barrister for details.

Finally, if you prefer not to volunteer, eat, or have drinks as a way to socialize and network (or even if you do) RCBA also has a fantastic lineup of CLEs planned for the bar year. Not only is there vast knowledge to be gained, but also a great opportunity to connect with colleagues within your discipline of practice. Please continue to check the RCBA website for dates, times and locations of CLE’s. Thank you to Leanne Fuith and Carol Bros, RCBA CLE Oversight Committee Co-Chairs. The Ramsey County Barrister also publicizes CLEs. 
This is going to be a great bar year. Let us take advantage of the ability to be back together again for in-person events. 
While we cannot predict the future, we can help create it. Stay positive, helpful, successful, and healthy.
Kenya Bodden is a partner at Thompson Coe LLP, a 70 plus year old national complex litigation law firm with more than 200 attorneys. Kenya focuses his litigation practice in the areas of casualty, transportation, insurance defense, and products liability. He also serves as a board member of Children’s Hospital Association (CHA), a dedicated group of volunteers who raise funds to invest in innovative and integral health care programs at Children’s Minnesota.