This is a comprehensive guide to lawyers and stress online.
In today’s society stress is an epidemic.
Lawyers are termed to be one of the most stressed professions in the world (source)
Since I’m a lawyer, I can tell you this, the lawyer’s stress begins from when a person is pursuing his/her law degree (LL.B), and stress follows him/her in Law school and finally in his/her career.
In this guide, you will learn
- what is stress
- why lawyers are so stressed (causes of stress to lawyers)
- effect of stress on lawyers
- effective stress management for lawyers
let’s get started
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What is Stress?
Stress is a negative mental or emotional response resulting from undesirable or challenging circumstances.
Lawyers and Stress
Why Lawyers Are So Stressed?
Stress to lawyers is mainly caused by two things. First is the professional pressure which includes competition, deadlines, work overload, areas of practice, adversarial system, etc. and second is the lawyer’s personal behaviors which include perfectionism, workaholic traits, emotional unawareness, race, etc.
“The major cause of stress is the inability of people to discover their real nature. Discover your gifts, follow them and you will never feel stressed.” Anonymous
Causes of Stress to Lawyers Due To Profession Pressure.
Currently, competition in the legal profession is overwhelming. There are thousands of lawyers graduates from university and law school each year.
According to the UK’s Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA), there were 212,218 solicitors on the roll in September 2021 in the UK. From that number, 156,323solicitors were practicing.
From that number, you can clearly see that the massive number of lawyers in the UK is practicing the thing which entails a high level of completion in the legal realm.
Further, according to the American Bar Association’s National Lawyer Population Survey, There are more than 1.3 million lawyers in the United States.
There is an 8.4% – increase in the number of lawyers from 2011 to 2021 in America.
From that data, you can clearly see that the number of lawyers in the USA is increasing astonishingly.
In estimation, there are over 10,000 law firms in the UK and the USA.
You may ask yourself where does the competition in the legal profession come from and how does it cause stress to the lawyer?
Here is an answer based on my experience.
Most lawyers establish their law firms in major cities with the aim of attracting major clients.
This causes floods of the law firm in these cities and solidifies competition.
Thus the lawyer’s struggles to take off and become flamboyant, the struggle to establish his law firm brand and reputation, and the struggles to attract major clients may lead to stress.
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Area of Practice
When I say the area of practice, I mean the subject or category of law in which the lawyer is highly interested and knowledgeable and hence practices it.
It may Be Litigation, Corporate Law, Insurance Law, Family Law, Banking Law, Human Rights Law, International law, etc.
As a lawyer, you cannot be the master of all subjects so a good lawyer focuses on the few areas of law that matters most to him
The truth is some areas of law are more complex and competitive than others, this may lead to so much stress for a lawyer when he tries to stand out to be the best in his area(s) of practice.
Read: 34 Types of lawyers: The best and the worst
Adversarial Legal System
There are two common legal systems in the world.
One is the adversarial legal system and the second is the inquisitorial legal system.
Common law countries use the adversarial legal system to determine facts in the adjudication process.
With this system parties are adverse, they are competing against each other, and judges/magistrates act as referees.
In an adversarial system, the winner wins all and the loser loses all. It is hardly a competition-based system.
The adversarial system creates enmity between parties, it has a lot of external pressures from clients, stakeholders, government, etc. and it has complex legal formalities.
A lawyer has to do tremendous work to survive within this system thing which may lead to stress.
Timeline Pressure and Work Overload
Most of the legal activities are connected with the timeline/deadline. It may be dealing with clients, preparing legal documents, filing a case in court, etc., and most of the timelines in the legal realm are set by law/statute.
Further, sometimes a lawyer may face cases of urgent nature.
Here the lawyer has to make sure he does his best to rescue the situation.
Failure to meet a timeline has a significant impact.
It’s may indicate the lawyer’s irresponsibility; it may lead to the case dismissal or any other inconveniences which may lead to stress.
Lawyers are very busy.
They have a lot of important work to do at once. When you take this busyness plus the timeline pressure as highlighted above is equal to stress.
Mathematically you can say work overload + timeline pressure = stress.
Causes of Stress to Lawyer Due To Lawyer’s Personal Behaviors
Do you know this popular phrase German machine never ceases?
Some lawyers are German machines.
They tend to work too much.
They have this workaholic nature.
They want to be in every activity.
A lawyer like this is very likely to be stressful taking into account he has to face all the professional pressure explained above.
“Trying to be a perfectionist brings increased stress and hinders performance.” T. Whitmore
No one is perfect and I think nothing is perfect too.
A lawyer with perfectionism traits is likely to be stressed because sometimes in their carrier things do not go as he wishes.
Some people are so emotionally soft.
When I say soft I mean they can easily be emotionally affected by external factors.
Lawyers with emotional softness are likely to be most stressed because the legal profession involves a lot of struggles, failures, pressure, and knockdowns.
Effects of Stress on Lawyers
The following are the effects of stress on lawyers.
Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are huge effects of stress.
By definition, a depressed person experiences recurring negative thoughts that trigger negative emotions like sadness, anger, and guilt.
An anxious person experiences chronic negative thoughts that cause negative emotions, such as fear.
Depression and anxiety are often at least partly caused by an inability to manage stress effectively.
Drugs and Alcohol
Many people use drugs and alcohol to eliminate stress. This is a very bad approach. Stressed lawyers also fall under this trap.
I think you may wonder if it is a lawyer’s isolation that leads to stress or if it is a lawyer’s stress which leads to isolation.
Hahaha! My answer is whatever!
But the fact is isolation and stress are two sides of the same coin.
Effective Stress Management Techniques for Lawyers
The best way to manage stress as a lawyer is to avoid it.
Don’t let stress enter your mind. Because it is much easier to avoid stress than to remove it.
otherwise, to deal with stress a lawyer can control his thoughts, improve his working environment, delegate, automate, and do exercise.
Control Your Thoughts
I will prefer to call it ‘emotional intelligence.
This is the most effective way of avoiding or managing stress. Stress cannot enter or control you without your permission.
Avoiding or controlling stress requires emotional intelligence.
What is an Emotional Intelligence?
When I say emotional intelligence refers to the art or science of controlling your emotions through your thoughts.
This will enable you to be emotionally aware and stable.
Don’t easily be emotionally affected by external factors.
Choose only positive thoughts to dominate your brain.
When you face stressful thoughts immediately replace them with positive thoughts.
That may be simple but not easy.
However, it is very possible.
You may consider reading a wonderful book titled As a man thinketh so he by James Allen for more insights.
Improve Your Working Environment
A good working environment is a must when it comes to avoiding or managing stress.
It includes the outside and inside the physical surroundings of your office.
Make sure you are surrounded by things that inspire and motivate you.
This will trigger positive thoughts in your mind and increase work morale.
Further, the working environment goes up to your colleagues and associates.
Make sure you have the right team.
Associate yourself with positive people.
“The fact is you are an average of three people you spend the most time with”
The wrong people can be stressful.
Do yourself a favor, be in a good working environment and choose the right association to enjoy a stress-free life.
Delegate and Automate
Do you know Pareto Principle?
Alternatively known as the 80/20 rule.
This principle simply states that 80% of the results are due to 20% of efforts.
As a lawyer, your goal should not be to work hard but to work smart or to work hard smart or to smartly work hard. When I say working smart I mean working to archive more with fewer efforts.
How can you archive that? It is through delegation and automation.
Make sure you delegate every task/activity which is not necessarily being done with you.
Things like conducting legal research, drafting legal documents, filing documents, and any other minor tasks. To effectively delegate make sure you have a winning team.
Hey, Mr. Lawyer! do you know a computer? It may help you when it comes to automation.
Let it automatically help you with things like taking notes, setting appointments, case calendars and reminders, emails and so much more.
With the current trends in science and technology automation is made easier.
With Delegation and automation, you will effectively manage stress because they will help you to get space to focus on major things with major impact.
They will also reduce workaholic behavior and gives you more control over your career.
Exercise, Relax and Sleep Well
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of ‘taking a break’ in managing stress.
Exercise makes your body active, relaxes relieves you from world distractions, sleeping well will take you to another world. Do you want more? I think it is enough.
Uuh! It was a very long journey but I hope you find this post useful!
Before you leave please spread the knowledge by sharing this post.
Say no to stress.