September 24, 2017

The Addicted Lawyer: Is Alcoholics Anonymous For You?

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Above the Law on October 14, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please get help. The Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program provides confidential assistance — call (303) 986-3345 or visit coloradolap.org

briancuban-e1473974781722By Brian Cuban, Esq.

April 2007. I walk up to the door of the building where area Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings are held. My family is pushing hard for in-patient treatment but I refuse. My psychiatrist feels that a trip here is the first step to long-term sobriety. Lucky for me, the building is right next to his office. If it hadn’t been convenient, I might have just made excuses to not go at all. For an addict, excuses are often more plentiful than reasons for recovery. The present is more important than the future — the present of the high.

After pacing around outside the doorway for a long time, I finally peer down the long hallway into the room where people are gathering. I’m afraid of being recognized. My ego is still paramount in my worries. “I’m a lawyer. There are no lawyers in in AA or treatment. My one client left needs me!”

My mind flashes back to one of my favorite childhood movies, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. I suddenly imagine that as soon as I enter the meeting room, I’ll be carried away by a team of chanting Oompa Loompas determined to punish me for my bad habits. I have no desire to meet the Oompa Loompas on the other side of that door.

I finally walk down the hall into the meeting room, and I can smell the fumes of stale cigarette smoke and day-old coffee. My eyes lock onto the 1950s tile floor, ingrained with the dirt of countless feet. There are other people milling around in room. Are these the people with whom I was supposed to share my darkest secrets? Would I be made fun of, teased, or insulted? Who are these people? Skid row bums? That’s my perception of AA. I think of Nick Cage’s character, Ben, living in the sleazy “no-tell motel” as he drinks himself to death in Leaving Las Vegas. Dick Van Dyke’s character, Charlie, drunk, alone on the beach with no future in The Morning After.

Deep breath. Don’t look around. Eyes down at the floor. That fixed point. Watch the feet move forward. One baby step at a time to a waiting chair. It’s the way I’m able to accomplish things in life. It’s how I was able to finish eight marathons. Facing any difficult task, my best self is that part of me that can place one foot in front of the other until a goal is accomplished. Don’t look left. Don’t look right. Don’t think about the finish line. I sit down. I listen. I cry. At the end of the meeting, I take a desire chip. The most important journey in my life begins.

As you have probably figured out, I got sober in Alcoholics Anonymous. I know I am irritating some who believe we should not talk publicly about being in AA. I believe we should be empowered to share all aspects of our personal journey if we choose to. I find it perplexing that we as attorneys in recovery, who spend our lives engaged in critical thought and using data, will exclude AA from that process as if there is some magical healing power to not discussing both its benefits and flaws when there is no empirical data to support the notion that talking publicly about being in AA, then relapsing publicly, will cause someone to not enter the program.

Certain aspects of AA have worked for me to date. I completely disregard other aspects. The sober connections I found in group were, and are, important to me. The people. The stories that tell me I am not alone. I, however, have never been as keen on the spiritual aspects and certain rituals of the program. That’s just me. You may like that. You may need that. Those issues however, have never been a deterrent to me in my program like they are for some who reject AA as their mode of recovery.

In speaking to law students and other lawyers about recovery, while some embrace the program, some would rather find others ways to long-term sobriety and have. Through their church. Through non-12-step-based programs such as Smart Recovery. Through both 12-step-based and non-12-step-based residential treatment. Through collegiate recovery programs. Through informal local attorney support groups. I know a few lawyers who have gotten sober on their own, although I would never recommend that path to start. There are many paths to recovery available today that were not available in 1935 when AA was founded.  AA has also not been my only mode of therapy. I have been seeing a psychiatrist for over a decade. I take anti-depressant medication daily. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) have been important in my recovery. Let’s not lose sight of the goal: To be a person in long-term recovery regardless of the path chosen. The most important decision of your life should be one of reflection and critical thought. It’s your journey. If it’s AA, that’s great. If it’s another path, get on it. Recovery awaits.

  1. http://www.americanbar.org/groups/lawyer_assistance.html
  2. http://collegiaterecovery.org/programs/
  3. http://www.aa.org/
  4. http://www.smartrecovery.org/
  5. http://www.celebraterecovery.com/

 

Brian Cuban (@bcuban) is The Addicted Lawyer. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, he somehow made it through as an alcoholic then added cocaine to his résumé as a practicing attorney. He went into recovery April 8, 2007. He left the practice of law and now writes and speaks on recovery topics, not only for the legal profession, but on recovery in general. He can be reached at brian@addictedlawyer.com.

The opinions and views expressed by Featured Bloggers on CBA-CLE Legal Connection do not necessarily represent the opinions and views of the Colorado Bar Association, the Denver Bar Association, or CBA-CLE, and should not be construed as such.

Bad Faith? Marijuana Inventory Is Insurable (For Now)

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Above the Law on Monday, February 29, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Hilary-BrickenBy Hilary Bricken

I recently chaired a webinar about marijuana and insurance issues, and I have already been roped into doing another one. I am well aware of how cannabis and insurance are a legally charged combination, and I expect to see an increase of cannabis insurance cases very soon. A federal court in Colorado just came down with an important cannabis insurance ruling in the case of Green Earth Wellness Center, LLC v. Atain Speciality Insurance CompanyThe case involves a cannabis company that sued its insurance company for failing to pay on claims and for bad faith. It’s important to note that I’m not talking about a cannabis company seeking coverage on a general liability insurance policy for something like a slip-and-fall or for damage to grow lights. To the contrary, this case is a big deal because Colorado Federal District Court Chief Judge Marcia S. Krieger ruled on a summary judgment motion that the actual inventory itself (i.e., the cannabis) is insurable under a general liability insurance policy.

Green Earth, which operates a medical marijuana dispensary as well as a commercial cultivation facility, obtained a general liability insurance policy from Atain in 2012. A few days before securing that policy, “smoke and ash from [a nearby wild fire] overwhelmed [Green Earth’s] ventilation system, eventually intruding into the growing operation and causing damage to Green Earth’s marijuana plants.” Green Earth made a claim under its Atain policy for damage done to its plants. Atain then investigated the claim for several months, and denied the claim in July 2013. Also in July 0f 2013, Green Earth’s grow facility was robbed, and Green Earth filed another claim with Atain for the damage done to its facility by the burglars. Atain again denied the claim, determining that the damage done to the grow facility did not exceed the applicable deductible. On December 20, 2013, Green Earth commenced its lawsuit against Atain, asserting the following three claims:

(i) breach of contract for Atain’s failure to pay the claims Green Earth made under the insurance policy;

(ii) a bad faith breach of insurance contract claim under C.R.S. § 10-3- 1104(h)(VII); and

(iii) a claim for unreasonable delay in payment under C.R.S. § 10-3-1115.

Atain argued that it should be exempt from paying Green Earth’s claims because of a provision in the insurance contract excluding coverage for “[c]ontraband, or property in the course of illegal transportation or trade.” Atain also argued that “public policy requires that coverage be denied, even if the Policy would otherwise provide it.” In turn, Atain asked the Court to resolve two questions:

(i) Whether, in light of [Colorado’s Medical Marijuana Act], federal law, and federal public Policy, it is legal for Atain to pay for damages to marijuana plants and products, and if so, whether the Court can order Atain to pay for these damages; and

(ii) “Whether, in light of [those same authorities], the Policy’s Contraband Exclusion removes Green Earth’s marijuana plants and marijuana material from the Policy’s coverage.”

Atain argued that the answer to its first question is “no” and the answer to its second question is “yes.”

The first important point of the Court’s ruling is what law it applied to the insurance contract. That contract mandates that disputes “will be governed by the law of the state in which the suit is brought.” So, the Court applied state law — as opposed to federal law — which is huge as this meant that the Court did not throw out the policy altogether on the basis of its apparent illegality under federal law.

The Court then held that because the insurance policy failed to define “contraband,” and Atain failed to prove Green Earth violated Colorado’s marijuana laws, and because the federal government has been giving mixed signals about federal marijuana enforcement, the “policy’s “Contraband” exclusion is ambiguous. The Court then looked to the “intention” of the parties regarding coverage for finished inventory and harvested plants and found nothing in the factual record showing that Atain sought to specifically exclude such coverage. In fact, the Court found that Atain knew Green Earth was a cannabis business and yet it issued its insurance policy to Green Earth regardless of federal laws, without making any unequivocal exemption, even under the “Contraband” provision, for finished inventory or harvested plants.

Atain then sought to invoke the federal Controlled Substances Act to argue that its own insurance policy was technically an illegal contract. The Court’s response to Atain’s illegality argument was that “Atain, having entered into the Policy of its own will, knowingly and intelligently, is obligated to comply with its terms or pay damages for having breached it.”

This ruling is a big step forward for the enforceability of marijuana-related contracts and another nail in the coffin for the “illegal cannabis contract” theory. This ruling also highlights the paramount importance of the choice of law, jurisdiction, and venue provisions in a marijuana contract.

Hilary Bricken is an attorney at Harris Moure, PLLC in Seattle and she chairs the firm’s Canna Law Group. Her practice consists of representing marijuana businesses of all sizes in multiple states on matters relating to licensing, corporate formation and contracts, commercial litigation, and intellectual property. Named one of the 100 most influential people in the cannabis industry in 2014, Hilary is also lead editor of theCanna Law Blog. You can reach her by email at hilary@harrismoure.com.

The opinions and views expressed by Featured Bloggers on Colorado CLE Legal Connection do not necessarily represent the opinions and views of the Colorado Bar Association, the Denver Bar Association, or Colorado CLE, and should not be construed as such.

Jeena Cho: What to Do When Everything Sucks

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Above the Law on September 28, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

Jeena_ChoBy Jeena Cho

Most of us have experienced moments where everything just sucks. This can range from minor irritations such as standing behind the a**hole with 32 items in the express checkout line at the grocery store when the sign clearly says 12 item maximum, to major heartbreaks such as a loved one dying.

There’s a whole body of research that shows happiness or satisfaction with life has very little to do with external events and everything to do with how we interpret or perceive an event.

Shawn Achor, one of my favorite Harvard researchers and authors, said in his TED talk:

[I]f I know everything about your external world, I can only predict 10% of your long-term happiness. 90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world.And if we change it, if we change our formula for happiness and success, we can change the way that we can then affect reality. What we found is that only 25% of job successes are predicted by IQ, 75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.

Which brings me to what to do when life just feels sucky. I often work with lawyers who are really unhappy with their jobs. Many of them are Biglaw lawyers trying to find some semblance of balance or find meaning in their work. One attorney I worked with had a crazy managing partner who had a tendency to scream, throw things, and slam the door to his office so hard that frames fell off the wall. Understandably, working for a mentally unstable person like this can make every moment of the workday feel like hell.

Yet, the research shows that much of her misery isn’t caused by the horrible managing partner but rather her reaction to his behavior. When we really examined the situation, it turns out, she had minimal contact with this managing partner — a couple of hours or less per week. Yet, she spent an inordinate amount of time fearing and thinking about this person and what he might do next. Obviously, she can’t control his behavior, but shecan limit how much airtime he got in her own head.

Additionally, when we carefully examined each interaction she had with this partner, not all interactions were negative. He didn’t always throw things, he didn’t always yell. However, because humans are hardwired toward a negativity bias and use cognitive shortcuts, she simply labeled him as the-most-horrible-human-being.

The way we interpret and frame a situation makes a huge difference in the way we experience it. For example, last week, I had an early morning networking meeting with another attorney. I got up extra early and spent well over an hour driving 20 miles in rush hour traffic. As I parked the car, I dropped him an email to let him know I was running few minutes late. He responded and said, “Sorry, I thought my secretary contacted you. I had a work emergency. I can’t make it this morning.” Needless to say, I was not very happy. I could notice my body and mind fill with irritation, frustration, and anger. My mind also started making up stories about the situation — he clearly doesn’t respect me or my time, he’s totally irresponsible, and so forth.

In mindfulness practice, we are taught to accept each moment, as is, without preference and judgment. In that moment, as I noticed all these negative emotions, narratives, and reactions bubble up to the surface, I was able to remind myself that I have absolute control over how I am going to feel about this situation. I can either allow the anger and frustration to take over or I can change my perception.

As I walked into Yerba Buena Gardens, a beautiful park in the heart of San Francisco, I practiced being in the moment. I looked up at the clear blue sky and took in the view of the park. I also noticed groups of tourists stopping to take pictures and realized how fortunate I was to call this place home. I also saw the many homeless people sleeping on the grass and thought but for the grace of God, I could be in their shoes.

I noticed my mind’s preference that I’d rather be at home, enjoying the extra hour of sleep, but also realized that’s like crying over spilled milk. I was awake; I was already here. I also noticed my mind’s judgment around this person’s behavior but also recognized how I, too, have been guilty of mismanaging my calendar or having unavoidable scheduling conflicts.

I found a park bench and sat in the sun (which is rare in San Francisco) and simply took in the beauty of this city. I was grateful for having this unexpected hour of free time. Then I noticed a hummingbird flying above my head, going from one flower to another. I sat there in the park enjoying the sounds of the birds chirping, listening to the sounds of the water fountain, and noticing the energy change as the city started waking up. The hummingbird, as if noticing my mood, stopped right in front of my face, just a few feet away, hovering. It felt as though I was being embraced by life.

So, my invitation to you, my dear reader is this: remember that the ability to find happiness in each moment lies within you. Instead of looking at all the ways in which the moment isn’t perfect, ask yourself — what am I grateful for?

Finally, I’ll leave you with words of wisdom from Rumi:

Be empty of worrying.
Think of who created thought!

Why do you stay in prison
When the door is so wide open?

Jeena Cho is co-founder of JC Law Group PC, a bankruptcy law firm in San Francisco, CA. She is also the author of the upcoming American Bar Association book, The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-Week Guide to a Happier, Saner Law Practice Using Meditation (affiliate link), as well as How to Manage Your Law Office with LexisNexis. She offers training programs on using mindfulness and meditation to reduce stress while increasing focus and productivity. She’s the co-host of the Resilient Lawyer podcast. You can reach her at smile@theanxiouslawyer.com or on Twitter at @jeena_cho.

The opinions and views expressed by Featured Bloggers on CBA-CLE Legal Connection do not necessarily represent the opinions and views of the Colorado Bar Association, the Denver Bar Association, or CBA-CLE, and should not be construed as such.