Every Saturday morning, a group of V&E attorneys, family and friends lace up their running shoes and meet at Houston’s Hermann Park for a weekly fitness boot camp. David Palmer Oelman, a Capital Markets partner at V&E, brings a 1980s-style boom box that plays an eclectic mix of music, and former pro football player Lionel Wilson leads the group through an array of exercises.
“Exercise clears your head. It makes you happier. I’m a better lawyer because I exercise, and I think a lot of people at the firm share that view.”
“It’s called a boot camp, but it’s not the type of thing where a drill instructor yells at you,” explained Oelman, a lifelong fitness buff who hired Wilson and began organizing the boot camp for the firm three years ago. “It’s really been pretty fun and it’s great for you physically.”
Oelman isn’t the only one at V&E who likes working up a sweat alongside his colleagues. Commercial Litigation partner Marisa Secco moonlights as a certified Pilates instructor in Austin and has led Pilates events at the firm, while V&E professional development staff organize well-attended monthly sessions of “chair yoga” (exercise routines performed with the help of an office chair). The firm also hosts monthly meditation sessions and an annual “wellness week,” where employees and attorneys are encouraged to participate in biometric screenings and attend presentations on both physical and mental health subjects.
The firm’s commitment to encouraging physical and mental well-being stems from a firm-wide appreciation of the “whole person,” said Jenny Krall, a senior national human resources manager at V&E. “We know that having a balance in your life is probably going to make you a better employee, so we want to try to provide resources that can help.”
Being proactive about one’s physical and mental health is important no matter what your profession, but those leading the charge at V&E recognize that attorneys and law firm employees especially can’t afford to skimp on self-care.
“It’s a challenge to stay fit when you have long hours and you’re really dedicated to your job, which our attorneys are,” Secco said. “But I honestly do think that making time to exercise makes you a better lawyer because it clears your head. It makes you happier. I’m a better lawyer because I exercise, and I think a lot of people at the firm share that view.”
Secco and others say that, in addition to the physical benefits, wellness events provide a great way for employees to build connections with one another outside of the usual office setting.
“I’ve certainly met a number of people from the firm that I wouldn’t have known otherwise,” Oelman said. “It’s a great way to get to know people on an ongoing basis.”
The firm’s commitment to wellness is also a helpful recruiting tool. Secco has led Pilates events on behalf of V&E for the annual Women’s Law Caucus at the University of Texas Law School.
“We use it as a way of showing our recruits that we encourage our attorneys to be not only good at their jobs, but well-rounded, healthy people who are better lawyers as a result,” she said. “We’re demonstrating that we put a premium on the health of our employees.”