Lawyers are known to work for significantly long hours with excessive workload, while simultaneously bagging insane amounts of stress and anxiety. In the UK, 74% of the population feel unable to cope with stress. 63% are legal professionals, amounting to the second most stressed out industry in the country.
I recently had a conversation with Jeremy Small, former lawyer turned CEO of Jameson Legal, who shared his experience as a private equity lawyer:
“Stress is a constant companion in the legal profession due to the combined expectations of meeting billable hours targets and the demands of clients deadlines, which are usually accepted however unreasonable they may be. I recall the week before Christmas aiming to complete three transactions and working through the night for much of the whole week. I was mentally and physically exhausted at the end of it and worried I may have made mistakes. I came to the conclusion that things were unlikely to change and I needed to find another role for myself.”
In the past few months, we were introduced to COVID-19, shaking things up quite a bit back at the office. With everyone going into lockdown, lawyers are now required to work from home (something they never would have imagined).
Evelyn Ang, Managing Director at Atlas Asia Law Corporation (Global EY Network), gave us an account of how it’s like working as a lawyer amidst the pandemic:
“Being isolated from others, having restrictions on leaving the home (and country) and mandatory work from home policies has made the Singapore Circuit Breaker a challenging time. We had weekly video meetings with the lawyers and staff to keep track of work progress and administrative matters, breaking out into smaller groups to discuss specific work matters. There are still some things which are more efficiently performed when we meet in person, like deal structuring and discussions where we need to refer to numerous documents and drafts, but we have learnt to adapt. For new client pitches, it is admittedly easier to conduct pitches at physical meetings rather than over a video call. After all, personal interactions and face-to-face meetings are important in establishing rapport and relationship.”
Naturally, one would assume that working from home means less ‘office’ hours and more ‘free’ hours. While this may be the true for some, it is not universal. In a recent survey by the Association of Corporate Counsel, 53% of the in-house lawyers felt that they were working longer hours than before, with 44% experiencing anxiety. This is not surprising as companies and firms are trying to mitigate the risks of the pandemic, however, sadly at the expense of their employees.
This is the harsh reality of the current work culture and the last thing we want is for anyone to go through more stress than what the pandemic has already caused. If you want to be productive and successful in your work and life in general, you should first make sure your mental wellbeing is taken care of.
1) Embrace technology- In this age, technology is finding its place in all industries. With Legal Technology on the rise, firms, legal departments and organizations are looking to quickly adopt smarter ways of working.
App4Legal is a unique software solution that centralizes all administrative tasks, dramatically reducing the workload for the lawyer and increasing productivity. Reduced workload, increased productivity and maximized efficiency i.e. the lawyer’s dream. Now why would one refuse the opportunity to make their life a little easier?
2) Organize your workspace- Nowadays, everyone has a special place for work in their homes. Be it a home office, family room, the kitchen table, bedroom or even the garage! You can dedicate time in your day to organize your workspace to your liking. Cleansing and re-arranging is always a therapeutic way to relax. Having an environment tailored just for you instills a feeling of comfort and motivation to eventually get that task done, while feeling good about it!
3) Virtual hangouts- If you love to socialize and enjoy good company, than this one’s for you. With current restrictions it is best to limit how we socialize with others. However, the power of technology and social media has proven to be very useful in this regard. Schedule video conferences with family and friends. You can even host virtual game nights, lunches, dinners; the list is endless. The point is to surround yourself with good vibes which bring out the best in you (p.s. you don’t have to clean up after your guests ‘leave’)!
4) You deserve a break- Lawyers struggle to detach themselves from their work, which is why they end up logging in extra hours. I get it, it’s hard to step away from a task for which you feel you don’t posses enough hours in the day to complete. You feel that absolutely nothing is more crucial than your work and should you step away for a second, that is valuable time wasted. However, it’s always the unhealthy habits we fail to see the most. In a survey it was found that 90% of North American employees claim that taking breaks helps them feel refreshed and ready to get back to work.
Too much of anything is never good, you need to learn to have a balance. Why don’t you try setting an alarm on your phone? You can set an alarm for two hours after you start working. Once the alarm goes off, reward yourself with 15 minutes of ‘me’ time.
I can take a power nap for 15 minutes and feel like a completely new person; it’s about recouping your thoughts and getting ready for your next work cycle.
5) Meditation- Breathe in. Breathe out. Be proud of what you’ve achieved. Breathe in. Breathe out. Understand that mistakes are a learning curve. Meditation is a scientifically proven, tried and tested method of relaxation. Regardless of what school of thought or culture you belong to, meditation has always played an important role in a persons mental wellbeing. Tools such as The Mindfulness App are fantastic as they provide guided meditation courses for beginners. Unlike other meditation apps, this app has a lot of free features, with the option to upgrade to a premium account ($9.99 monthly or $59.99 annually).
Some things work for some, and other things work for others. The point is not to follow a guideline or a set of rules on exactly how to relax and de-stress (that essentially defeats the purpose). Sometimes it is ok to not be ok. The point is to check in with yourself every once in a while. If you feel that something is off, take a break, go for a walk, talk it out, seek help; whatever you think is best for you.
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