If you’re a lawyer, you probably know some burned out lawyers. In fact, you might be a burned out lawyer yourself. There are plenty of articles about how billable hour demands and student debt loads are crushing lawyers’ souls. Unfortunately, these issues are just the tip of the iceberg. Lawyers also can be dragged down by representing clients or causes they don’t agree with, the hierarchical nature of the profession, the publics’ negative perceptions of lawyers and the work we do, etc. What is a lawyer to do? Here are some suggestions.
- Find a supportive group. If you’re frustrated with your legal practice, chances are there are others around you who are also frustrated. Find a group you can join to talk through your issues and frustrations. Can’t find a group? Create your own—invite a group of similarly situated attorneys to create a safe confidential space for discussion.
- Mentor. Feeling disillusioned with your law practice? Helping a law student or new attorney find their way will make you realize how far you’ve come. It also just might reconnect you with the reasons you went into the law to begin with and give you renewed vigor in your career.
- Pursue a hobby. Most people don’t find all of their satisfaction in life through their job. Balance yourself by having a life outside of work. Pick up an old hobby or find a new one and spend a few hours a week not thinking about the law.
- Work for a cause on the side. You have skills, why not put them to use for something that will make you feel good? Whether you have a pro bono program at your firm or you just put aside a couple of hours on the weekends, spend some time working for a cause you believe in and work off some of the karmic debt you might feel you owe from a career in law.
- Demand change at your job. Craving flextime? A telecommute schedule? A move to a different practice area? Most times, you have to make change happen yourself; it’s unlikely that your boss will offer up a more manageable schedule out of the blue. If you bring value to your position and you enjoy your work, why not ask for the changes that will make your life more manageable? There’s a risk in asking, but nothing will change unless you take that first step.
- Change your job. Maybe you’ve realized the type of client or the type of work isn’t the right fit. Whatever the reason, if you’re unhappy in your current practice, you can make a change. Remember, there are other legal jobs out there.
- Quit the law. Law isn’t the only industry with career opportunities. You’ve probably heard that people change careers anywhere from 3 to 7 times during their lifetime. How long have you been practicing law? Don’t forget that you have options. You might feel stuck because you have only ever practiced law and you have bills and expectations, but that’s not the same thing as actually being stuck. Change requires sacrifice and courage. If you made it through law school and passed the bar, you’ve got this.
- Attend a program. There are a growing number of resources for attorney wellness. At programs like CEB’s Renewal Retreat, you can learn techniques to manage stress and pick up tips on how to make law practice more manageable. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for being happy in the practice of law, but taking a day away from your practice to examine these issues is a good first step toward finding your own path.
Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:
- How to Be a Happier Lawyer
- Mindfulness for Lawyers
- The Big Switch: Answers to Questions about Changing Practice Areas
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