The legal profession is constantly changing, and there’s a lot attorneys need to know these days in order to ensure their firms have a chance to be successful. In this guide we’ll help prepare lawyers for everything that may come their way in 2022. We’ll be discussing COVID-19, leadership, lawyer wellness, legal tech adoption, hiring new staff, marketing, media relations, the business of law and much more! We hope the information below helps lead you to tremendous success in the new year.
5 Tips For Avoiding Occupational Burnout In 2022
By Rebecca Howlett, Esq. and Cynthia Sharp, Esq. – Co-Founders of The Legal Burnout Solution
Even now, working under pressure for excessive hours without a break is viewed as a badge of honor in many sectors of the legal profession. Unfortunately, this well-entrenched culture has resulted in many lawyers becoming victims of burnout, as well as other mental health concerns.
Lawyer burnout, however, is neither a requirement nor a rite of passage. It can be prevented or managed provided that the individual attorney is willing to shift behaviors and take charge of their own well-being. Consider implementing even one of the following proactive steps to safeguard your health and legal practice:
Prioritize Your Physical Health
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn left us with this thought-provoking question: “If you don’t take care of your body, where will you live?” As tempting as it may seem when we are “short on time,” don’t slack on taking care of your daily physiological needs:
Eat a balanced diet. Nourishing our body with healthful foods is a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. While food is a source of pleasure for most of us, keep in mind that it provides the fuel that keeps us running efficiently. Choose wisely. Planning your meals and shopping in advance will help you stick to your resolve.
Establish a regular exercise program. Exercising for even 10 minutes per day supports both your physical and mental health, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving sleep, and increasing energy levels.
Practice good bedtime hygiene. Implement a routine that will help you get sufficient, quality sleep. Retire each evening at a set time, making sure to detox from screens for an hour or so before bed.
Be Intentional With Work-Life Balance
It’s all-too-easy to fall into the routine of working day and night. Many lost track of what day it was while practicing law at home during the pandemic and fell into the habit of working seven days a week. Such a trajectory is unsustainable and a recipe for burnout.
Nip this bad habit in the bud and actively implement (and enforce!) healthy work-life boundaries. Make a specific plan as to when you will be available to serve clients and respond to inquiries from colleagues, clients, and others. For example, we plan our schedules one year in advance, designating vacation days on the calendar in order to protect that valuable time. We also recommend mapping out your week in advance and scheduling in time for lunch, workouts, hobbies, and time with family and friends.
Set yourself up for success and be conscious about when and where you work. Commit to working a set number of hours each day and try to take weekends off. Be sure to “unplug” each day and do not check your emails once your workday ends. Finally, designate a work space or area instead of working at your dining room table, on the couch, or in bed.
Just Say No
To avoid burnout, you need to know (and respect) your limits, learn to say no and release the belief that you must prove yourself by working an inordinate number of hours. Learn to establish healthy boundaries and set realistic expectations with yourself and others. For example, don’t feel guilty about turning down work that is not a good fit. Step back and consider how you can lighten your load by delegating to colleagues and support staff.
Take A Break
Rest is not a reward, it’s a requirement. Build in time each day to relax and recharge. Don’t eat at your desk in front of your computer—actually take a lunch break! Get into nature—take a mid-day walk or “feed two birds with one scone” and eat your lunch outside. Plan and take vacations! Untether yourself from your phone and computer for the day when it’s a federal holiday or the weekend.
Find Healthy Ways To Relieve Stress
Contemplative practices can alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. These science-based practices help us be present in the moment and develop mindful awareness of our thoughts, which can promote our overall well-being. Find an activity that resonates with you personally, such as journaling, yoga, dance, contemplative reading, playing music, singing, walking, volunteering, or meditation. There are countless forms of mindfulness meditation practices so have an open mind and explore different methods until you find what works for you—e.g. loving kindness, grounding, or breathwork.
Moving toward positive change to curb burnout is possible once you make the decision to be the author of your life. Are you ready to take the first step toward preserving your personal well-being?
Access the full Answering Legal Lawyer's Guide: 2022 Edition.
About the Authors: As practicing attorneys, Becky Howlett and Cynthia Sharp each experienced and overcame some of the all-too-common ills of the legal profession, including mental health concerns, addiction, and lawyer burnout. By sharing their stories, they hope to inspire individuals and organizations to take the necessary steps to protect and prioritize their health and well-being.