Lawyers are often stressed out. Most have demanding careers, and typically little or no sense of work-life balance. In this blog post, we offer six essential stress management practices every lawyer can start to implement immediately.
What are some stats about stressed lawyers?
Nearly 8 in 10 in-house lawyers report feeling stressed or burned out. Additionally, an American Bar Association study showed that 38% of lawyers work long hours, 32% said they feel pressure to not use vacation time, and one in four said they did not take adequate breaks throughout the day. The State of the legal market 2023 report from Thomson Reuters found similar trends in mental health.
Even post-pandemic, the workaholic attitude remains in the legal profession. While some wear it as a badge of honor, it can lead to disastrous consequences. According to a study from the journal Healthcare, lawyers who are overworked are more likely to contemplate suicide.
Before reaching a breaking point, lawyers and others in the legal profession can take a step back to protect their health. Here are some tips for improving mental health, avoiding burnout, and prioritizing stress management.
Find your work-life balance
When you log too many hours, you’re more likely to become overwhelmed by stress. One key aspect of lawyer stress management is figuring out the work-life balance that’s right for you and your loved ones.
Start with incremental steps. If you’re missing too many of your child’s soccer games because you’re always at work, for example, ask your boss if you can head out early once a month to catch a game. Perhaps you can work remotely on an as-needed basis or schedule remote work on Fridays or another day when things are slower at your firm.
When you go home for the day, try to set boundaries by not checking work emails at all or after a certain time and looking for ways to decompress on the weekend.
Creating a law firm that offers the best of both worlds.
Work with a paralegal
You may feel like you need to have control over everything — that’s normal. But you may want to consider outsourcing tasks to help reduce your stress levels. Working with a paralegal who can take over some of your responsibilities can help you focus on client work and more important tasks.
You can ask your firm to find or assign a paralegal for you or to help support several colleagues, or if you own your firm, a staffing agency can help source a full- or part-time paralegal.
Use the latest legal tech
Technology for lawyers has come a long way over the past few decades. Now manual processes like legal research and discovery that used to take hours can be done much more efficiently with technology.
Find out the latest tech that other law firms are using and try it out for yourself to see whether it’s worth the investment.
Does exercise help for stress management?
Exercise has been shown to stimulate the production of endorphins and reduce stress hormones, which can make you feel more relaxed. The Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) recommend getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity as well as two days of muscle-strengthening activity per week.
You may feel stressed out just thinking of how you can carve out time for a fitness regimen. But there are ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine:
- You could get a treadmill desk or take meetings while walking.
- Go for a walk or hit the gym when you have a break during the day.
- Wake up early or take a yoga class after work or on the weekends.
Once you start exercising regularly, you’ll likely feel a difference and find the motivation to keep going.
Utilize employee wellness programs
If your firm offers employee wellness programs, take full advantage of them. You may be able to get a free gym membership, yoga classes, therapy, personal development programs, and even free lunches.
Remember that if you can manage your stress, you’re more likely to be productive and accomplish more.
Take time for yourself
Everyone, even the best lawyers, needs time off to recharge. A comprehensive lawyer stress management plan should always include time away from the office.
Take your vacation days and don’t check on work while away — your caseload will be waiting for you when you return. By cultivating healthy habits in and out of the workplace, you can make stress management a key part of your daily routine for a healthy work-life balance.