Fri October 9 2020, 10:03 // Posted by Matthew Fong
Lawyer Burnout: being mindful of lawyers and mental health
Across multiple studies, researchers have found that legal professionals are more likely to experience mental health issues, leading to lawyer burnout and/or substance abuse, when compared to other industries. Burnout researcher, Dr. Arnold B. Bakker finds that “burnout develops when someone is dealing with a high level of stress but doesn’t have access to adequate resources, such as social support, helpful advice, feedback from friends [or] colleagues, or control over how they spend their time.”
The research also shows that lawyers are less inclined to seek support for their mental health fearing a decline in their reputation. With the added personal and professional pressures caused by COVID-19, now is perhaps the most important to take the time to recalibrate a work-life balance and reintroduce personal time and personal care into your life.
What can you do for yourself?
While we may not be mental health experts, we care about attorneys. We at Corvum believe attorneys are heroes who work above and beyond for their clients. Below are a few suggestions we’ve researched that may be worthwhile to prevent lawyer burnout!
1. Stick to a schedule
During tumultuous times, trying to sit down and schedule day-to-day tasks can feel overwhelming and like a waste of time, especially with deadlines, goals, and KPIs to meet. However, the Lawyerist believes in the necessity to be able to put your schedule on paper. Depending on your preference, you may opt into scheduling in 15-minute or 1-hour intervals. Doing so helps clearly visualize what needs to be done and what time frames are allotted at any point during the day.. They also encourage scheduling your weekends too! By scheduling weekends, it’ll help stabilize your schedule and set yourself up for future unscheduled weekends that you’ll be confident taking. Lastly, The Lawyerist reminds lawyers to be flexible! A schedule helps as a source of truth. But if a new event pops up out of nowhere that you wish to attend, allow yourself to change your schedule and adapt. Regain confidence with your time.
2. Set up personal boundaries
Sticking to a set schedule helps by having a source of truth in your day-to-day. If a new event pops up out of nowhere, you have your schedule to lean on for whether you have time (re: being flexible). While scheduling is an excellent first step, what about clients who call after hours? Many lawyers provide their personal number to clients to build rapport. Some find that clients may contact them late in the evening regarding their cases, impacting the lawyer’s mental health. Setting up healthy boundaries is important to ensure you commit to your prepared schedule. If successful, being able to keep work at work reduces the risk of lawyer burnout.
3. Mental health support apps
Smartphone users have access to multiple mental health apps on their app stores. Many of these apps follow the method of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), “a form of psychological treatment that [is] effective for a range of problems including depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug use problems, marital problems, eating disorders and severe mental illness. Numerous research studies suggest that CBT leads to significant improvement in functioning and quality of life.” Mental health in law has much opportunity to be better with such practices.
One practice often used in CBT is mindfulness. Mindfulness.org defines mindfulness as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” By practicing mindfulness, people learn to respond to stressful and overwhelming situations, rather than succumbing to unhealthy coping habits such as substance abuse. Here are a few goodwill examples to consider:
4. Reach out for support.
It is imperative that people, not just lawyers, muster up the courage to confide in your family, close friends, or a therapist! Humans are social creatures and require social connection. Pain researcher Dr. Brene Brown found that “when we reach out for support, we may receive empathy… We recognize that our most isolating experiences are also the most universal. We recognize that we are not defective or alone in our experiences.” When connecting with those close to you, you may learn that they share similar experiences, developing mutual empathy and being able to share the burden together. Connecting with the right therapist will give you the tools necessary to better navigate the world and your mental health.
Heroes don’t walk alone.
Heroes don’t become heroes by themselves. They always have people walking beside them in support of their endeavours. As legal professionals, you may be the hero to your clients. Every individual requires different resources and methods to find the right support needed for their mental health. We encourage that law professionals take the time for themselves to make their health a priority. Take the time to set yourself up to be the best hero you can be.