Fred Marienthal had a lightbulb moment at a Kutak Rock partnership meeting several years ago. “Whenever I’d ask one of my colleagues, ‘How are you doing?’ the answer was always, “I am so busy,” as opposed to giving an answer that was heartfelt, such as ‘I’m doing fine and enjoying myself.’” A public finance partner in the Denver office of Kutak Rock, he realized, “We needed to do more self-reflection and bring that into our practice.”
Mr. Marienthal and his wife, licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Sally Sporer, devised a break-out session on mindfulness and meditation for the next year’s partnership meeting called, “The Disease of Being Busy.” It was so well-received and well-attended that they created and presented several more sessions in the following two years. After one of those sessions in February 2020, Chicago EB-5 finance partner Mariza McKee approached Mr. Marienthal about bringing this resource to the firm at large, citing the benefits of building emotional intelligence and resilience in an often-hectic and demanding profession. Both are aware of the staggering number of attorneys suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues.
They turned to Kim McKelvey, Director of Strategic Focus, Inclusiveness and Diversity, for direction. Her suggestion to create a new Affinity Group for Kutak Rock’s Forum felt like a natural fit.
And then the pandemic struck.
“We hit the perfect opportunity to roll this out with everyone working remotely,” Mr. Marienthal said. “That wasn’t planned. When Mariza and I talked in February, it was pre-pandemic and then we were planning everything as the pandemic was ramping up. We hit a sweet spot in terms of people needing a lifeline or tether,” he said, noting the regular emails they receive from attorneys and staff alike thanking them for providing this resource.
Ms. McKee concurs:
People needed a way to connect and achieve some stillness as the world was tornadoing around them.
Each week, the co-chairs choose a focus word and email it to the group, which now boasts approximately 120 members. “For instance, this week’s word was ‘grace.’ Next week’s word is ‘whole.’ We pick a word and then find articles, guided meditations, art, journal prompt, and poetry relating to that word. We invite people to think about that word during the week,” said Mr. Marienthal. “It was Mariza’s idea to choose a word to email out in the beginning of the week to provide a theme. She’s much more imaginative than I am because she has a very strong focus on what she wants to do with the group.”
On Fridays, the group convenes in a standing Zoom call. Participants are welcome to attend when they can. “Mariza and I each share thoughts about that particular word. Then ‘Dr. Sally’ leads us all in a guided meditation.” The meditations focus on concepts such as gratitude, wholeheartedness or self-compassion.
The meetings are recorded and available to attorneys and staff whenever they’d like. At over 25 meditations, they’re pleased to be able to offer that library of material to the firm. “We see this as foundation-building,” said Ms. McKee. “The concepts of mindfulness and meditation are brain science, proven tools for self-assurance. I think this group adds to Kutak Rock’s emerging culture of bringing your whole self to work.”