Burnout is a serious concern in all professions, but none more so than legal. Legal professionals work, on average, 6 hours more than their contracted hours every week. Solo attorneys regularly work 50-60 hour weeks to manage every facet of their practice. So, as an attorney, you have to stay aware of yourself and your staff to ensure that everyone is taking care of themselves.
Making time for mental health takes consistent effort. It isn’t easy to prioritize yourself when work doesn’t stop, but it is necessary if you want to be at your best and maintain the same passion for your work. At LEX Reception, we all have our own strategies to keep ourselves strong and motivated. Here are our favorite techniques that anyone can practice.
We’re talking about self-discipline, and the ability to say ‘no’ to non-essential meetings and requests. Accurately assessing what is essential isn’t an easy skill. But taking control of your schedule and setting aside time for uninterrupted work will transform your working life.
Start by looking over your calendar, and blocking out time to spend on important cases or growth strategies. Let the team know to treat these blocks as though you are in a meeting – you’re not to be disturbed unless it’s an emergency. Make sure that you can switch off your phone when you leave work. A virtual receptionist can give you the confidence to do this, knowing that every caller will speak to a real person who will take their message professionally.
“At the start of each week, I look over my calendar and mark an hour of every day as ‘Busy’. I choose times that tend to be quieter, with fewer team meetings or requests, but also make sure they are times I work best. With the space to think, I can identify opportunities for the business to grow.” Bre, Operations Director.
Getting overwhelmed or overworked isn’t just bad for your mental health, it can also hurt your performance at work. Stress affects your memory, and your ability to learn new things; so the more stress you are under, the more likely you are to make costly mistakes.
Luckily for us, there is an easy way to refocus and reduce the impact of stress. The planet is our ally and simple things like getting outdoors and seeing trees can help to refocus our minds. Just looking at a photo of a forest view can help us to relax and lower stress levels, according to researchers in the Netherlands. Maybe you can convert a team call into a team walk on sunny days, and populate your office with photographs of spectacular natural views.
“Every month, I set my computer background and Teleport video background to a new landscape photo. When I’ve finished a task, I minimize my tabs and take a moment to reset my brain and get excited about my next project.” Eden, Content Strategist.
During Covid-19, there was an increased interest in yoga and meditation to stay grounded through uncertain times. The reason these were so popular was that they help us to slow down and switch off from whatever is worrying us.
While providing team yoga sessions during lunch might be more common outside of the legal sector, that doesn’t mean some lawyers wouldn’t appreciate the option. You can start small, offering a 10-15 minute guided meditation or yoga stretch several times a week. Introducing mindfulness sessions gives a clear message to your team: it is good to slow down and look after yourself.
“One of our Client Account Managers runs guided meditations for anyone interested in joining. These are a highlight of the day, reminding us to take a breath. Afterwards, I feel refreshed and ready to jump back into work.” Tess, Lead Client Account Manager.
The most important skill you can develop for your mental health is identifying when you need to ask for help. The signs of burnout might be clear to other people, but they are hard to identify in yourself.
There are many resources available to lawyers looking for support. This could be internal: reaching out to a colleague to redistribute workload. Maybe you could save time by outsourcing ‘low-value’ tasks to an experienced legal services business. And sometimes, the right support is found when you sit down with a friend who can listen to your worries and empathize.
“I speak to attorneys every day who are overwhelmed and wondering how they can effectively reduce their workload. By listening to their worries and needs, I can demonstrate how we can help reduce their workload and free their time.” Brianna, Account Executive.
You cannot be the best support to your colleagues and clients if you’re struggling with burnout. That’s why, even when it’s a challenge, there’s nothing more important than prioritizing your own mental health.