Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

How to Avoid Lawyer Burnout

Lawyer Burnout 

Burnout can happen to any lawyer, but there are some simple ways to keep it from happening to you.

The first step is to acknowledge that burnout is real, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Even before the pandemic, more than one in four lawyers said they sometimes struggle with depression, and nearly 20 percent have anxiety. Two years of COVID have only worsened matters. 

“Burnout is far more than feeling mentally overtaxed,” according to Sarah Bottorff of Lawmatics. “At its most severe, it’s an occupational hazard capable of leaving you incapacitated or unable to carry out your job.”

It’s no wonder. Competition for clients is fierce. Professional demands are endless. And there never seems to be enough time.

“Lawyers work long hours, neglect their own needs, and feel extreme competition,” according to Practus LLP. “It’s no wonder so many suffer burnout.”

Here are some signs of impending burnout: feeling tired all the time, having trouble sleeping, losing interest in things that previously brought pleasure, having trouble concentrating, losing patience easily, procrastination, alcohol or substance abuse, gaining or losing weight, having trouble in relationships, and feeling a lack of motivation and purpose.

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Ways You Can Avoid Burnout

Here are some pointers from for avoiding burnout:

  1. Get enough sleep. We live in an age of sleep deprivation, and the law is a prime culprit.
  2. Recharge your batteries. “Rest, and prioritize taking care of your body and mind as human, as opposed to focusing on yourself just as a lawyer,” according to CLIO.
  3. Watch for red flags. An early warning sign is losing interest in things that used to light you up – sports, family, hobbies, music, etc.
  4. Create time for yourself outside of the office. Make this a priority.
  5. Set boundaries. “Know and respect your limits, learn to say no and let go of the belief that you can handle more than you actually can,” says CLIO.
  6. Take care of yourself. “Find ways you can incorporate activity into your schedule,” according to Practus LLP. “Could you have a walking meeting with a colleague or client? Can you commit to leaving the office for 45 minutes once a week? Keep a yoga mat in your office and do some Pilates during lunch. Speaking of lunch, fuel your body with protein and nutrients. Consider packing a healthy lunch and go-to snacks to have throughout the day.”
  7. Talk to a friend. Maintain positive, healthy relationships.
  8. Practice mindfulness. “It means being aware of your feelings, thoughts, actions, and your surroundings,” according to Practus LLP. “In many ways, it means being more intentional with your time. How often do you put aside how you feel to get more work done? Over time, those emotions build up and either result in physical or mental illness.”
  9. Delegate and automate. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Let the people around you and the tools at your disposal simplify your life.


Sources: The National Law Review; Practus LLP; CLIO 


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About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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