In today’s world of social media influencers and so-called self-help gurus, it has suddenly become trendy to be focused on self-care, meditation and mindfulness. However that same world, combined with constant communication, has made our lives busier than ever often resulting in relegating self-care to the bottom of our to-do lists. This can be especially true for working mothers who want to give their all to both their career and their family, often putting themselves last in the order of importance. But self-care isn’t just a passing fad—it is an important part of modern life and is crucial to living a well-balanced life. In this edition of Women in the Law, we profile a successful attorney who has made self-care and meditation central to her day-to-day life.
Attorney Roopal Luhana has made her career being a strong advocate for others, with a deep commitment to women’s causes in particular. Roopal has a tireless work ethic and a long list of impressive achievements, including growing Chaffin Luhana LLP along with her law partner Eric Chaffin into a national and regional plaintiff’s-only powerhouse with offices in New York City, Pennsylvania and West Virginia over the last ten years, serving on the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee (PEC) in the In Re: Sorin 3T Heater-Cooler System Products Liability Litigation, participating as a panelist at the 2017 Duke Law Conference Panel for Women and Minorities in Leadership Positions in MDLs and serving as one of only two court-appointed women on the Plaintiff Steering Committee in the case of: In Re: Yasmin and Yaz (Drospirenone) Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation in the Southern District of Illinois.
Roopal attributes much of her drive to be a voice for others to being the child of immigrants. When she was five years old, Roopal’s parents left everything they knew and moved with their three children from India to the United States. The sacrifices that her parents made by immigrating to a new country, in order to give their children opportunities they never had, instilled in Roopal, a strong sense of fairness, compassion and equality. “I’ve always found myself speaking up and being a voice for people who don’t have a voice.”
Roopal loves her work, which she insists is an important part of being an advocate for others. “It is a privilege and an honor to effectuate change and make a real-world difference. At the end of the day, what we do is important [and] our hard work helps save lives; we’ve helped to take dangerous products off the market.” Roopal takes her role as an advocate for others very seriously—she works with people, especially women, who have been seriously injured because they relied on the pharmaceutical industry to prioritize its consumers’ safety and best interests. Knowing she has the responsibility to right some of the wrongs that her clients may have suffered, Roopal believes it is important not to give up just because the typical litigation tactics may have failed. While working on the Yaz multidistrict litigation, Roopal had a client who passed away due to health complications associated with the birth control pill and she was trying to contact the client’s former gynecologist to obtain information about her condition prior to her death. However, the doctor was unresponsive to requests. Instead of giving up, Roopal used creative thinking to get what she needed to help her client—she had her assistant make an appointment with the physician as a patient and once she gained access to him she was able to convince the doctor to take the time to talk about her client.
Through a combination of creative solutions and practical thinking, Roopal is able to so deftly represent her clients. “In the early days of my career it was all about the fight; however, as I evolved as an attorney, I began to realize that not every fight is worth fighting so combatively. You have to critically evaluate and recognize what is important to your opponent and problem solve. Perhaps there is a middle ground approach that you can take that will not ultimately cost you much in the case but will save you significant time and effort in the short term and help create good will with your opponent.”
She further notes that it is important as an attorney to be genuine and be able to tell your clients’ story and represent their point of view. Being able to spot pretense is an invaluable tool for an attorney. “You have to find your own voice because people can always spot pretense. You have to navigate your way and know your audience so you know how you are coming across to people.” Being genuine with her clients has been paramount in her role as an advocate, especially with women who are suffering from female-specific injuries and illnesses. “Women feel more comfortable talking to other women about that sort of thing. It’s important to remember that this is likely the first time that most of my clients are talking to an attorney and the best way to accurately tell their story is to connect with them on a personal level and make yourself vulnerable so they feel comfortable opening up and telling you details about how they truly have been impacted that you won’t necessarily find in a medical record.”
Part of what helps enable Roopal to be a tireless advocate for her clients is the knowledge that her children are happy and well taken care of at home by her husband, who made the decision to be a stay-at-home parent. Her husband’s choice has allowed Roopal’s practice to thrive and allowed her to continue to do the work that she loves. Roopal believes that what she is doing through her work—effecting change in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry and helping her clients get justice—is important and that she and her husband serve as role models to their children just as her parents served as an example to her. Roopal stresses that in order to balance her often stressful work life with her busy home life, she prioritizes self-care. The word “self” may make one think that self-care is selfish behavior, Roopal stresses it is actually the opposite. “Self-care is so necessary because once you feel complete yourself, you are able to give so much more to others. It starts with being focused on the present and not always stressing about what’s to come. We have a strict no phones at the dinner table rule at our house because with a phone out it’s so easy to start responding to emails.”
Beyond her “no-phones” rule, Roopal talks about how she has found increased productivity and become more centered through the practice of Ziva Meditation. “Meditation is a great tool [and] it has taught me a lot about being engaged and present.” Meditation is something she does twice daily and expresses that it helps her decompress and re-energize.
When asked what advice she would like to impart on the next generation of attorneys, she encourages people to figure out what they want to do, what drives and motivates them and ultimately makes them happy. “I think the key to your professional and personal growth is to be consistent, to form good habits and make sure you are content from within, self-care is instrumental, and only then can you fully give your energy, creativity and productivity to accomplish your goals.”
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