Unlike any other professionals, lawyers are also super 'humans' – saving lives and delivering justice. Although lawyers do not undertake the hippocratic oath, their lives are dedicated to securing their client’s best interest.
The pandemic gave us the option to work from anywhere and connect virtually; it wasn’t much different than staying alone on an island. During the pandemic, the legal industry also saw the great resignation, where lawyers left the legal profession, as many lawyers had been more aware of the mental health concerns due to the toxic work culture and stress resulting from a never-ending workload.
According to a 2021 study conducted by Microsoft, “with over 40 per cent of the global workforce considering leaving their employer this year, a thoughtful approach to hybrid work will be critical for attracting and retaining diverse talent.”
What led to the great resignation? We all discussed it and heard a lot about mental well-being during and post-pandemic. A 2020/21 report titled Life in the Law by LawCare found that legal professionals have a high level of burnout and stress. The report identified different matrices and analysed various parameters, like ethnicity, age, sex, and hierarchy.
According to the report:
- 69% of the participants experienced mental ill-health (whether clinically or self-diagnosed), and around one-half of the participants talked about mental ill-health at work.
- Over 75% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that their workload is unpredictable.
- Almost 65% agreed or strongly agreed that they need to check their emails outside of regular work hours to keep up with their workload.
- 28% agreed or strongly agreed that their work requires them to be available to clients 24/7.
Steps to curb stress
In his book “The Conquest of Happiness”, Bertrand Russell remarked, ‘If I were a medical man, I should prescribe a holiday to any patient who considered his work important.’
The LawCare survey found that “Sport and exercise were frequently referred to as helpful activities by participants. These ranged from traditional physical sports, such as swimming, running, cycling, walking, tennis, and golf, to activities focusing on relaxation, such as pilates, yoga and meditation. Several participants commented on the benefits of being outdoors.” Apart from exercise, sports also offer a networking sessions.
Another interesting result from the survey included, “Almost 9 in 10 participants felt that it was the personal responsibility of individuals themselves to address their welfare and ‘look after their own health’ with 8.9% (n = 131) of those believing it was their sole responsibility.”
Legal professional associations have taken multiple initiatives, including setting up care and counselling units. Some examples include The Law Council of Australia, The UK Bar Association, The Law Society of Hong Kong, American Bar Association, among others.
We often hear “to be done yesterday” in the legal industry – this holds correct when we see the stress level. According to Martindale-Avvo’s 2020 Attorney Compensation Report, the key challenge faced by most lawyers is “Dealing with difficult clients”. Most of the time, we are just carried away by the words of stakeholders.
We need to work on our health and well-being and try to control the stress in all situations whenever possible. Situations can include dealing with tight deadlines or managing a blunder. A way to start is by preventing stress.
Some strategies and steps that can help curb stress could include:
- Don’t ignore the early signals
- Maintain healthy eating and sleeping
- Set your own balance between work and personal life
- Discover the child in yourself and spend time on leisure, fun and exercise
- Pick an outdoor sport
- Don’t try to escape the situation
- Meet like-minded people and the ones who make you happy
- Break your silence and talk with friends and specialist
- Empathy for oneself and others
- Plan your time and act on it religiously
Disconnect with the world and connect with yourself
May is mental health awareness month, and we must find time to recharge and refresh ourselves. Stress will always stay with us in the legal industry, and we must learn to play with it.
Remember that a challenging life is not about living with stress and anxiety. If someone forces you to believe this, you are not at the right place with the right people. The time to move away from the place or people has come.
Define your breaks and do take regular time-offs. It’s the time – let’s go out to talk, play, and spend some me-time.
“To be a champion, you have to learn to handle stress and pressure. But if you’ve prepared mentally and physically, you don’t have to worry.” – Harvey Mackay.