Lawyer burnout is all too common, and we want to help you prevent it. Combat stress and fatigue by investing in self-care, setting boundaries, and investing in law firm automation technology.
Burnout is an extreme form of exhaustion that can cause chronic health problems. It differs from temporary stress because it implies a prolonged period of emotional fatigue and physical pain.
For lawyers, the burnout may start as early as law school. You’re swamped with assignments, running on little sleep, and stressing about the future. At first, it feels manageable, but maintaining this lifestyle long-term can have severe consequences.
Everyone wants to achieve a work-life balance, but few know where to begin. This article will walk you through preventing, recognizing, and recovering from burnout. It’s all too common in the legal industry, and our goal is to provide practical solutions to help you avoid burning out.
When you're amid burnout, it can be hard to recognize what is happening in the moment. There are several warning signs you can look out for. Physical signs of burnout include changes in appetite, weight fluctuations, high blood pressure, headaches, stomach issues, using substances to cope, and self-isolating to name a few. Mental symptoms can include loss of motivation, negativity, a decreased sense of accomplishment, irritability, and self-doubt.
The first stage of burnout is called the honeymoon phase. You may feel stoked, energized, and ready to conquer projects no matter how stressful they may seem.
In the next stage, the onset of stress begins to settle in. You’ll start experiencing symptoms such as fatigue and loss of focus, and it might become uncharacteristically difficult to block distractions.
If you don’t begin to address the symptoms, these feelings may evolve into chronic stress. The sensation of exhaustion may plague you daily. This fatigue can start impacting your energy levels, causing a strain on your relationships and life outside of work.
Once you’ve been under chronic stress for a long enough time, it will turn into burnout. At this phase, you will no longer be functioning normally. You may begin experiencing physical symptoms, such as chronic headaches, digestive issues, etc., indicating your body is not running optimally.
Lastly is habitual burnout, where exhaustion may prevent you from working and could even put your job at risk. Don’t worry; even if you reach this level of burnout, there is hope to recover.
A great way to start setting boundaries for yourself is by time blocking. Take time for rest and nurture your life outside of the office. The fastest way to burn out is to make work your entire purpose and forget about hobbies and community. It’s okay to work long hours now and then, but if you notice it’s becoming a pattern, talk to your employer about making sure you don’t exceed the eight-hour-a-day average.
Commit to a daily self-care routine, even if it's only for ten minutes. Take breaks throughout the day, try the Pomodoro method to work for twenty-five minutes, then take a five-minute break.
Move your body, even if it’s just an evening walk, and eat food that gives you energy. These little acts of self-care will benefit you greatly if they turn into habits.
It doesn't need to be extreme lifestyle changes. Even making small tweaks can make your days more fulfilling and less stressful.
There is so much law firm technology available to streamline your intake process. Tasks such as replying to clients, scheduling meetings, and posting on social media can all be handled via automation.
Hopefully, you already have a CRM, but if not, this could be life-changing. With a CRM, you can manage your lead/client information, automate billing, capture e-signatures, time tracking, and more from a single dashboard.
Intaker will also assist you in capturing and qualifying leads instantly. You can auto-reply to all new leads and offer them the opportunity to self-schedule. We even provide business SMS texting to allow your entire firm to work as a team in responding to clients and thus taking some of the pressure of client communication.
You can work quickly by sending items to each other's virtual Desk's. This allows you never to fall behind, miss a notification, misplace paperwork, or lose a lead. Adopting legal technology can make all of the difference in avoiding burnout. Investing in these supportive tools and practice management software will save you in the long run.
If it’s too late for burnout prevention, it’s necessary to focus on recovery. If you’re chronically tired, request a long weekend or take a vacation.
Talk to your boss about your workload and explain why it is making you feel overwhelmed. Brainstorm how some of your tasks can be automated or delegated to others.
People often fear having this conversation, but most bosses will be happy with your self-awareness and honesty. Instead of slacking, you are being proactive in letting them know how you’re doing and how you are invested in finding a solution that most benefits the company.
You can also inquire about working from home a couple of days per week to reduce your commute and provide you with a few more hours per week to yourself. If your symptoms are overwhelming, it’s always good to talk with a mental health provider for professional advice and support.
Hopefully, by taking more time for yourself and automating repetitive tasks, you’ll be able to begin recovering. Spending time in nature, with your family and friends, and focusing on your hobbies, can bring back a spark.
The legal profession is stressful, and practicing law can affect your physical and mental wellbeing. We hope this article helps those who experience burnout and can help in the beginning to take steps towards recovery. For those who are yet to experience it, we hope you will be able to avoid it by using some of the tools we mentioned above and being proactive in addressing your mental health.