How to become a “Resilient Lawyer” with the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism

Interviewed by Kenny Matuszewski

Kenny: What is resiliency? It seems to be a frequent point of discussion on social media and the news nowadays. (answered by Diana Uchiyama and Tony Pacione)

 Resiliency is characterized by the following qualities:

  • Ability to overcome setbacks and failures
  • Confidence in problem-solving ability
  • Maintain focus on accomplishing goals
  • Comfortable with your own personal resources
  • Willingness to utilize novel problem-solving abilities in challenging situations

Kenny: Do you think lawyers tend to have high or low resiliency? If not, why? (answered by Diana Uchiyama and Tony Pacione)

In general, lawyers demonstrate low resiliency when responding to surveys. They tend to be thin-skinned, defensive, and take feedback and criticism personally.  However, when judges, attorneys, and law students reach out to LAP, we help them understand and access innate resiliency skills that often are underutilized in their day-to-day functioning.  We work closely with them to navigate difficult problems and overcome obstacles and barriers that prevent them from being successful. However, many attorneys feel embarrassed or ashamed to reach out when they are struggling with resiliency issues. This then limits their ability to successfully navigate difficult personal or professional problems and issues.

Kenny: How does a lawyer’s lack of resiliency manifest in the legal profession? (answered by Diana Uchiyama and Tony Pacione)

We often see attorneys struggling with personal or work-related issues. As a result, they turn to “quick fixes” in order to keep working and “plow ahead.” These quick fixes include maladaptive coping skills such as using alcohol or other substances, increasing mental health symptoms without seeking treatment,  eating disorders, gambling addictions, sleep impairment issues, and work-life balance issues that prevent them from exercising or taking time off from work.

Kenny: Are there any long-term effects of lacking resiliency? (answered by Diana Uchiyama and Tony Pacione)

Long-term effects include compassion fatigue; burnout; mental health problems including depression, anxiety, and panic attacks; shame and guilt, accompanied by the feeling that they are “not good enough,” or that they have let others down who depend on them; and maladaptive perfectionism, including an inability to meet the internal and external expectations they set for themselves and that their work environment demands.

Kenny: Given these effects, it is imperative to develop resiliency. Why is it difficult for people to nurture this trait? (answered by Diana Uchiyama and Tony Pacione)

The biggest obstacle most attorneys face is accepting they need help. They tend to base their self-identity and self-concept on being “a problem solver”; this image is threatened by the need for help. As a result, members of the legal community tend to suffer in silence for long periods of time before reaching out for assistance. Fear of failure often prevents people from engaging in behaviors where they have not been assured a positive outcome. Thus, individuals become risk-averse and less likely to use novel problem-solving strategies, such as reaching out for help when they need it.

Kenny: Changing your mindset and point of view takes time and effort. Is there anything people can do in the immediate future to become more resilient? (answered by Diana Uchiyama and Tony Pacione)

First, individuals should contact LAP – we provide a safe, non-judgmental, and confidential place for them to identify their issues and ask for help in solving their problems. Second, they can begin to acknowledge that they are struggling and need help with their current circumstances; they can also engage and communicate with a close friend, mentor or colleague to increase their social support network. Finally, having self-compassion and recognizing personal limitations allows us to recognize that we all struggle at different points in our lives. Asking for help does not diminish our self-worth or change our ability to be successful in the future.

Kenny: The Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism is launching a new course called “The Resilient Lawyer.” What should attorneys expect to take away from this course, and how can it help them develop resiliency? (answered by Dan Davies)

The Resilient Lawyer offers an introduction on building resiliency as an essential part of managing your well-being. The course has been designed to help attorneys develop an understanding of resiliency, recognize areas in which they may need to build their resiliency and learn some simple strategies for doing so from industry experts.

Kenny: What’s one thing attendees should learn from “The Resilient Lawyer”? (answered by Dan Davies)

Those who take “The Resilient Lawyer” online course will learn that resilience isn’t an innate quality. We all have the capacity to build our resilience in times of stress and adversity, and the techniques to do so aren’t as daunting as we may think.

Featured in this Interview:

dan davies

Dan Davies

Dan Davies is the Education Manager at the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism. He manages the Commission’s educational programming aimed at promoting a more professional, civil and inclusive legal profession. Dan partners with Commissioners and Commission staff, attorneys, CLE providers, judges and law schools to expand the number and improve the quality of learning solutions available for CLE across Illinois. Click here for Dan’s full bio.


Tony PacioneTony Pacione

Tony Pacione joined the LAP staff in 2013 and became LAP’s clinical director in January 2014. Tony has worked as a clinician and program director in the addiction and behavioral health field — at Humana-Michael Reese HMO, Rush University Medical Center, the Advocate Addiction Treatment Program, and Harborview Recovery Center.  Tony is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Illinois and a Certified Supervisor Addiction Counselor. He holds a Master of Social Work and a Master of Arts in Education degrees from Washington University in St. Louis.



Dr. Diana Uchiyama

Dr. Diana Uchiyama joined LAP in 2018.  Prior to joining LAP, she was the Administrator of Psychological Services for DuPage County where she oversaw a DASA licensed substance use treatment program, including a MISA program, and DHS Domestic Batterer Intervention Program for a court mandated population of clients.  Dr. Uchiyama has also worked for the Kane County Diagnostic Center, as both a Staff Psychologist and Juvenile Drug Court Coordinator, and has an extensive background doing court ordered psychological, sanity, fitness, and sex offender evaluations and therapy.  She has implemented numerous changes to court ordered programs both in Kane and DuPage County and is a certified trauma informed care trainer.  Prior to obtaining her masters and doctorate in Clinical Psychology, Dr. Uchiyama was an Assistant Public Defender in Cook County working in various felony courtrooms at 26th and California. She obtained her law degree from Pepperdine University School of Law.


Leave a Reply