5 Warning Signs of Impending Lawyer Burnout

Lawyer at his desk holding his head in his hands due to burnout,

Lawyer burnout is not uncommon.

Dr. Wolkstein, a career therapist, told The Atlantic, “…it’s not uncommon for lawyers who’ve been at firms for years to come to her feeling ‘so beaten down that they need help to regain their sense of themselves.’” Despite the prestige and six-figure income—the long hours and stress, combined with the all too often acrimonious nature of lawyering—makes second-guessing the decision to attend law school extremely common among lawyers. Here are five signs that you might be headed toward lawyer burnout.

The Top 5 Signs and Symptoms of Impending Lawyer Burnout

1. You’re always worried about money.

When you were just starting out, you may have thought the path to a high paying job was simple: get a law degree, get a high paying job, and pay off your student loan debt with no problem. Unfortunately, reality rarely lines up with the expectations of most lawyers following graduation. For more on this, be sure to read our in-depth, 2-part series on why there are so many broke lawyers.

Ask yourself: What is the reason(s) I am staying in my current position? Is it strictly financial reasons or do I genuinely enjoy my work more days than not?

2. You never have time to do what you love.

Long hours, through the weekend and late into the night, are part of practicing law. So is being on call for clients who need you. Ty Doyle, Esq., describes the truth of practicing law in Huffington Post’s article 6 Reasons Why Lawyers Are Unhappy With Their Jobs, “Most attorneys work about six days a week, generally fifty-plus hours per week, and the norm now is to be available anywhere at any time.”

Ask yourself: How much time have I spent in the past 30 days doing the following: spent time with loved ones, exercised, and made time for hobbies? How many times have I stopped working to sit down to eat lunch? How long do I really think I can maintain the current pace I’ve been running; what will it cost me?

3. Your emotions are strangely out of control.

If you are like most lawyers, your schedule is jam-packed—but so are the schedules of most ambitious professionals. The difference for those on the brink of burnout is what happens when things do not go as planned. For example, you hit traffic on the way home, or your family needs your attention and starts complaining you work too much, or you realize you forgot to go grocery shopping.

Ask yourself: Do I feel like I’m constantly running behind? When I am taking a break do I still feel like I should be doing something else? How often do I feel the pressure to work faster? How many times did I lose my temper, have a panic attack, or have felt sick to my stomach over the last 30 days?

4. Your job performance is suffering.

Mistakes happen, but when important things begin to slip through the cracks on a regular basis and clients begin to notice—that could spell trouble. Similarly, if you find yourself getting frustrated with clients and creating less-than-positive interactions with them, it might be time to reassess your situation.

Ask yourself: What is the source of my recent drop in performance? Have I always struggled in these areas, or is this unusual? Can I pinpoint a specific source of the problem that I can proactively solve, or has this been a growing problem for months now?

5. You don’t feel fulfilled by your work.

If you are like most law school graduates, you probably set out with the hope of changing the world. However, piles of paperwork, long days in court, difficult clients, and endless meetings can quench that flame.

Ask yourself: How fulfilled do I feel overall in my current position? Have I been daydreaming about changing careers? If yes, have I taken any proactive steps to explore my options, or am I daydreaming as a way to escape temporarily?

Already experiencing lawyer burnout or any of these symptoms? You are not alone.

We can speak with confidence, having worked with more than 2,700 lawyers over the past 12+ years, that if you are or have experienced in the past any of the warning signs above, you are not alone. Lawyer burnout is extremely common.

The great news is that New Law Business Model can provide the solutions and the support to take back your life and build a thriving practice you’ll love. Book a call to speak with a Law Business Advisor today.

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