Lawyer burnout has been formerly defined as: “a disease of disengagement.” A key sign of this “disease” is when an attorney feels a reduced sense of accomplishment. Negativity takes control of an attorney’s job and the professional often loses a sense of identity and achievement. Lawyer burnout can be a serious condition resulting in many negative impacts on an attorney’s professional and personal life.
Many articles have been written on this topic. We recently came across one article written by Randall B. Christison from Wolf Management Consultants, LLC, in which Christison discusses whether burnout is a necessity in a lawyer’s career. The article does a great job of discussing a slightly complex topic in simple terms. While you can view the full feature here, we’ve provided the major issues below.
No Shame in Experiencing Burnout
All attorneys must know that there’s no shame in feeling, or displaying the signs of, a burnout. Lawyers work within harsh environments that can easily lead to disengagement and anxiety. A few triggering factors include:
- Long hours
- High stress
- Adversarial settings
- Tight deadlines
- Assuming the responsibility of a client’s money, family, or freedom
- Colleagues and superiors passing judgement on an attorney’s performance
Combine all of these elements and the result is an often tense occupational setting that can easily lead to burnout symptoms. Thus, an attorney should never feel a sense of indignity if burnt out.
The Signs of Burnout
Christison provides both physical and mental red flags that suggest burnout. Some of the physical signs are:
- Fast or skipping heartbeat
- Indigestion, gastric complaints
- Sleep problems
- Appetite changes
Some of his mental red flags are:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Increased procrastination
- Feeling of dread
The following are not panaceas for every single case of lawyer burnout. However, they offer some help. A few short-term solutions provided by Christison include:
- Improved time management
- A focus on stress management
- Better exercise and nutrition
- Vacations and days off where a lawyer can actually un-plug
Long-term solutions to burnout will largely depend on a specific attorney and his experiences and situation. But, on a general level, some helpful suggestions when formulating a long-term plan for beating burnout, are:
- Changing employers or re-focusing practice areas
- Analyzing values and re-defining success
- Improved communications with clients regarding expectations
- Greater contributions to community
Attorneys have difficult jobs and they often work in harsh environments. Lawyer burnout happens. If you believe you may be experiencing burnout symptoms, don’t try to run from them or mask them as something else.
QUID PRO QUO supports all of our candidates and attorneys. If you’re concerned about burnout, contact us. We’re always here to help. We can provide you with additional information on this serious condition and we’ll work with you to find resources that will help.