President's Message: The peer support that sustains us

  • May 31, 2023
  • Kelly McDermott

photo of OBA President Kelly McDermottIt was with some trepidation and much anticipation that I launched my presidential mandate in March – a promise to create reliable, accessible and meaningful support networks for lawyers. I was eager to impart my vision of peer support that would ensure every lawyer could tap into the empathy, kindness and shared experience of the OBA community whenever they needed it. But I was unsure of how this initiative, not to mention my story as a lawyer living with an underlying health condition who is also a single mother and caretaker to someone with a disability, would resonate.

Over the past two months, I have been floored by the positive response from those within our community and beyond – by the influx of interest, ideas and encouragement.

What I’ve noticed is that, despite the great strides we’ve made in cultivating a more inclusive profession and healthier culture in our legal workplaces, we are seldom as forgiving of ourselves as we are of others for failing to meet an impossible expectation of perfection that remains stubbornly attached to the role of being a lawyer. We are only human, and it only takes one conversation with another lawyer who has been just where you are, to feel the tremendous relief and reassurance that you are not alone.

When I was speaking about my mandate at March’s OBA Council Meeting and soliciting feedback from Council members on where support was most needed, it was like the floodgates had opened – it was so validating to hear that situations or anxieties you imagined uniquely yours were, in fact, quite common.

We talked about how torn many of us are about wanting so badly to return to in-person spaces but then worrying about how to navigate them. We noted the concern of young lawyers who feel they are missing out on vital in-office and in-court interactions and other informal learning and networking opportunities. We discussed the excitement around social events that’s often followed by exhaustion from being around so many people. We weighed in on the isolation, the uncertainty, the prolonged stress and constant-need-to-adapt that has forever changed us all.

The palpable energy that built up during that exchange was extraordinary and empowering. We uncovered and understood the common challenges and are now set to address them as a legal community.

That is what I look forward to seeing over the course of my term: more ways to connect with our peers and garner constructive insights, resources and support, so we can gain the most fulfillment not just from our careers as lawyers, but our lives as lawyers. You will receive more details on the ‘how’ in June. Until then, feel free to connect with me at with ways your association can best support you now.