Sixty-two percent of attorneys say the stress of private practice never really goes away, no matter how long you do it – and that percentage is even higher for sole practitioners.
But successful lawyers have mastered a few coping techniques, such as being picky about case selection and letting machines deal with mundane tasks.
And this one: when time is tight, they deal with the alligator closest to the boat first.
“Law can be a tremendously rewarding career, but also at times frustrating and incredibly stressful,” writes California lawyer Nick Goseland for Above the Law. “The evidence is stark; lawyers suffer from depression at 3.6 times the rate of the general population (and likely even higher for Biglaw attorneys).”
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8 Ways to Reduce Stress in the Law Office
- Play to your strengths. You’re adding to your stress when you take on more work than you can handle or when you accept matters that are outside your comfort zone. Doing so will make you and your staff miserable. It also increases your risk of malpractice.
- Take a break. A vacation is not only good for your mental health – it’s good for your business, too. This Harvard Business Review survey found that 94 percent of well-planned trips result in improved energy and job outlook. Other benefits: greater productivity, better engagement and less burnout. “Taking off a couple of days to go to the beach may sound like a longshot when you’re just trying to stay afloat (no pun intended),” writes Mike Kappel for Entrepreneur. “But refusing to take time off from work can cause your stress levels to skyrocket. “
- Vacation like you mean it. When you finally get around to heading off for that ski trip or Bermuda cruise, do it right by leaving work and worry behind. This is not always easy. Almost two-thirds of small business owners feel a need to check in with their office daily, according to this survey.
- Manage your time wisely. “Focus on the ‘alligator closest to the boat,’” writes criminal law attorney Michael McKneely for RocketMatter. “It can be tough not to let daily chores like email and billing take up valuable time needed to prepare a client’s matter.” Solutions: automation, delegation and prioritization.
- Let your computer ease your load. Here are some tools Kappel says can do just that: email marketing platforms, client relationship management software, social media management programs, website chatbots, payroll software, accounting software, employee performance management software.
- Build a great team. “If your teammates are satisfied or dare I say happy, it creates a positive work environment that improves morale, innovation, and work effort,” says Phoenix attorney Marc Lamber for RocketMatter. “As important as this is, it is very hard to accomplish on an ongoing basis. There can be no substitute for real and meaningful relationships with your work colleagues built on trust and loyalty.”
- Hire another employee. Chronic, unrelenting stress could be a sign that you need more help. “Bringing on a new employee can alleviate some of the stress,” writes Kappel. “Rather than juggling a million responsibilities, you can experience the joy of delegation. Consider hiring an employee if you desperately need help, have steady profits, are falling behind, or want to expand your business (e.g., additional location).”
- Tend to your mental, physical and emotional health. Walk or bike to work each morning. Go to the gym during lunch. Take up meditation, yoga or deep breathing exercises. Make time for outside interests or pick up a new hobby. Stay in touch with friends and family. A strong support network is a key defense against stress.
What pointers would you add to this list?
How would you like to have your very own on-call practice management consultant? That’s what you get with Ask the Risk Pro, one of the many benefits of being a member of Alta Pro Lawyers RPG. You also get free webinars, the Pro Practice Playbook and peer-to-peer relationships. Here’s how to join.