Job stress has become a big deal in the legal industry. It’s so big in fact, that it was the main agenda at the 2019 National Association for Law Placement’s (NALP) Annual Education Conference which was held in San Diego. The conference featured dozens of sessions that focused on this theme in a bid to promote better mental health.
‘There’s been a lot in the news about top lawyers from major law firms having to step down and take a break,’ says a representative of JD Huntr, one of the top online job boards for lawyer jobs California lawyers use. ‘Amongst the main reasons for these top lawyers taking a break has been exhaustion, mental health concerns as well as substance abuse,’ he added.
Finding a healthy work-life balance isn’t easy for many lawyers. It’s not uncommon for them to get called up by clients at odd hours. Even corporate counsel jobs often require long and hard hours at work depending on the industry you work in. It is not surprising that lawyers are under a constantly high level of stress. Studies show that seven in every ten lawyers in California would consider a change in their careers if they ever got the opportunity. The high-stress levels these lawyers experience just isn’t sustainable in the long term.
Burn out is often the result of subjecting oneself to consistently high-stress levels. While this is becoming more common amongst lawyers, talking about mental issues is still a taboo in legal circles. The American Bar Association and the NALP are setting the charge in approaching depression, burnout and stress in a more proactive way. The recent Annual Education Conference was just part of this.
JD Huntr recommends the following strategies for lawyers to manage stress.
Acknowledge and address the stress: The demands on lawyers, both in-house and working in law firms, can be intense. Advancements in technology haven’t made things any easier. If anything, they’ve set an even faster pace for lawyers. Clients and employers now expect faster responses and quicker results.
‘If you’re struggling with keeping up with the workload, the first step in managing it is acknowledging it, so that you can address it.’ Don’t wait until the burn out sets in. When this happens it will be too late. Your employers or associates would better know that you are having a hard time rather than having you resign or be taken ill.
Consider making a move: If you are struggling and nothing is done after you’ve communicated this to your boss, you may want to make a move. ‘Many lawyers consider corporate counsel jobs as a move to reduce stress,’ says the JD Huntr representative. ‘Those who are already in-house consider changing companies,’ he notes.
JD Huntr warns that not all in-house positions are less stressful. Some can be very demanding. Attorneys must be careful to consider the type of company, the roles, and responsibilities as well as the expertise required for the job.
Most importantly, never suffer in silence. There’s nothing shameful in admitting that your workload is too demanding and taking a step back to address the issue.