Having grown up in a large family of musicians, Catherine Leas loves music but lacked the sheer determination required to practice the many hours daily required to succeed in music as a career. Therefore, in 1990 at the age of 37, she applied to and was accepted by Arizona State University College of Law.
At the time her husband, Jeff, was supportive and her children – Amber, 10, and Christopher, 8 – took her role as a full-time student in stride.
“After graduation, I considered my options, mindful that I had a different mindset at age 40 than I had in my mid-20s,” Leas says. “I could not be happy giving up my choice of which cases I accepted or how to work on the cases. Renting an office within an executive suite in Scottsdale, I started a solo practice in estate planning and probate. As fate or synchronicity would have it, my suite-mates were all women lawyers who were generous with their time. We became good friends, sharing practice tips, ideas and war stories.”
Leas started her solo practice in elder law in Sun City in 1997. Today, she shares her office space with two other women attorneys – with whom she has also developed a close professional and friendly relationship.
Other support comes through connections made at the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys Arizona Chapter and the Special Needs Alliance. “These organizations are full of inspiring and wonderful attorneys, most of whom do not self-identify as lawyers first but as human beings who have many wonderful facets, and who by the way, also practice law. It is a subtle difference, but important, and can be applied to other areas as well.”
In 2008, after experiencing tremors and stiffness in her right hand and arm, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Deep brain stimulation surgery reduced the tremors and stiffness dramatically, but her symptoms continued to progress and require prescription medications for management.
“I realized that, while Western medicine does have wonderful interventions, it relies upon a model of disease management that treats people as a bundle of symptoms rather than as an otherwise healthy human being experiencing those symptoms,” she says. “One has to go to alternative medicine for information about how to create health starting with the whole person.”
After implementing a regular meditation practice and reading books such as “You Are the Placebo” and “Becoming Supernatural” both by Dr. Joe Dispenza, Leas became aware that we all have a very sophisticated inner technology that we can learn to access and use to trigger our own natural healing processes.
“Some of this knowledge has been previously lost or forgotten, but is now being rediscovered. For me, this meant Tai Chi, Chi Gong, meditation, a good diet, and maintaining presence whenever possible,” she says. “Contrary to the expectations of Western medicine, I have moderated and even reversed my tremors and stiffness while eliminating all prescription medications.”
Through it all, she has developed a satisfying legal practice by remember that she is a human being first and a lawyer second.
“Co-creating my own healing required more than just believing that we are so much more than a cluster of symptoms requiring management. It also required sheer will and determination. Like music, that is something that must be practiced, nurtured, and developed over time.”