No newsflash here: Being a lawyer is stressful. Long hours, strict deadlines, pressures from clients, emotional and/or adversarial work and other issues can easily cause burnout or worse. Unfortunately, studies show that lawyers have a high rate of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide.
Solos and small firm attorneys can suffer the worst because not only do they have to represent clients, they need to manage their firm, bring in business, plan for the future and deal with all the other day to day tasks of running a business. That’s why it’s important for them to be proactive in managing their stress.
- Try mindfulness meditation. Many people are skeptical, but vetted studies show the benefits of meditation. Some law schools even offer mindfulness classes. A routine mediation practice of just a few minutes a day can help improve focus and memory.
- Go on vacation. When was the last time you went on a real vacation? If you can’t remember, its time to stop what you are doing and plan some time out of the office. Everyone needs breaks – whether it’s a simple “staycation” in your hometown or an exotic trip to a far-away land. Yes, it can seem like a lot of work to plan it, but make sure you have back-up and then plan to catch up when you get back. However you make it happen time away from the office is important.
- Get organized. Studies show that clutter can create or worsen stress. Take a few minutes each week to clean your office, purge and organize your papers. Add a few personal items for a more pleasant environment. You spend a lot of hours in your workspace – it should be an aesthetic and inviting atmosphere.
- Delegate. Remember your time is money so don’t waste time doing tasks that could be handled by someone else more effectively and/or less expensively. Look for opportunities to delegate administrative tasks and legal work that don’t require your level of expertise. Focus the use of your time on your best and highest tasks like legal strategy and rain-making.
- Use technology. There are many technology tools to help you manage your practice and take care of administrative tasks. You should consider them an investment in your productivity and your health. When possible, try to use as many cloud based platforms as possible. This will give you the freedom and flexibility to work from anywhere – yes, even while on a vacation!
- Get professional help. Know your limits. When it gets to be too much, seek out support services from friends, family or even medical professionals. There are lawyer assistance programs in every state to help attorneys with counseling and other services.
- Take care of yourself physically. Last but certainly not least, you’ve heard it a million times but do your best to eat healthy, drink lots of water, exercise and get enough sleep. A fit body can handle stress better, plus adequate exercise and sleep are particularly beneficial in helping you recharge your mind and body.
Attorneys must realize that there is a price to be paid for trying to manage everything all the time – there’s damage to the firm and to the attorney. Running a legal practice means thinking about what is best for your business for the long-term. That also makes sense for your health. Concentrating on what’s most important can help you reduce stress.
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