Based on numerous studies, lawyers, particularly family lawyers, experience some of the highest levels of stress, depression, anxiety, and addiction compared to other professions. Some research has shown that attorneys have three times the rates of alcoholism and depression compared to the general population. Despite being aware of these statistics for years, little seems to be changing. I have personally witnessed the detrimental impact of stress and addiction on my colleagues during my 27-year career as a trial and family law attorney. I also served as a counselor and intervention specialist for my state’s bar association section, assisting lawyers struggling with addiction issues.
Law school graduates often face significant debts from both law school and undergraduate education, including tuition and expenses. According to US News & World Report, up to 90% of the 2015 graduating class from well-known law schools had debts exceeding $100,000, with 76% of Yale graduates owing $123,000 or more. This substantial financial burden can be overwhelming for lawyers, even if they secure high-paying positions at top law firms, and contributes to the high levels of stress they experience.
Family law cases are notorious for being time-consuming, resulting in invoices that some clients are unable or unwilling to pay. The competition for clients and fees is intense, leading many lawyers to feel like they are constantly fighting against the opposing party, their lawyers, the judge, and even their own clients when it comes to getting paid. As a former divorce lawyer, I understand firsthand the challenges of working in family law, which can leave practitioners feeling like they have no refuge in a career they once thought would bring them fulfillment and satisfaction.
3 Techniques to Reduce Stress & Increase Productivity in Your Family Law Practice:
Take time for “brain recess” through meditation to detach from constant thinking. While it may be challenging for legal minds to embrace, meditation is crucial for well-being. Find a meditation style that resonates with you to stop the incessant mental spinning and provide mental clarity.
2. Deep Breathing
Practice deep breathing to supply sufficient oxygen to the frontal cortex, enabling higher brain functions and reasoning. Shallow breathing, often induced by fear or panic, can hinder analytical abilities. By focusing on deep breaths, you can reduce stress and enhance decision-making capabilities.
3. Mindfulness or “Paying Attention”
Detach from thoughts to gain control over them more effectively. As lawyers, your minds are trained to anticipate problems, but it’s essential to step back and avoid succumbing to anxiety. By being aware of your thoughts and feelings, you can redirect negative thinking towards positive outcomes, resulting in greater control over your mental state with consistent practice.
Reduce Stress & Increase Productivity: Control Your Thoughts, Control Your Career
Taking control of our thoughts is the key to reducing stress and increasing productivity in our legal careers. It’s essential to recognize that we are good individuals who happen to be engaged in legal work, rather than letting our identity as lawyers define us entirely. When we allow our legal minds to overpower our conscious minds, it can lead to an unbalanced perspective.
Many lawyers who maintain their compassion, peace, and happiness have likely avoided letting their legal identity consume them entirely. On the other hand, those who adopt a “win at all costs” or desperate mindset may find themselves stuck in a lose-lose situation. To transform our legal practice into a more positive experience, we should view ourselves as counselors, not just warriors. Embracing tools like breathing exercises, meditation, and mindfulness can greatly benefit our professional lives.
Even if spirituality may not initially appeal to some, I encourage them to reconsider its potential significance. Incorporating these techniques can not only safeguard our legal licenses but also have a positive impact on our overall well-being, possibly even saving lives. By prioritizing mental and emotional balance, we can find fulfillment and success in our legal careers.