The stress in Biglaw can push someone to their absolute limit. The work demands of successful attorney have not changed much in 25 years – hours spanning from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. When you factor in your daily commute and getting ready in the morning, how much time does that leave you for yourself? If you bill 2,000 hours, you are likely working 2,500 hours. If you are a gunner and bill 2,800 hours, you are likely single and working weekends. You also can’t forget that sleep takes up about 7 hours of your 24-hour day, as well. You probably have a measly 3.5 hours a day for personal time, if that – which is likely further siphoned by chores, errands, etc.
Biglaw has many rewarding aspects to it, but many lawyers can agree, there are also times were frustration and stress get the best of you. The evidence behind this is eye-opening to some – lawyers suffer from depression at a much higher rate than the general population, nearly 4x as likely as the general population (that number is more than likely higher for Biglaw attorneys). Additionally, the suicide rate for lawyers is among the highest in the nation – rivaling alcoholics and drug abusers. But you are paid handsomely and are rewarded financially, even above bankers, doctors, consultants in the same peer group.
There are ways lawyers can manage the stress that comes with their profession:
Exercise. I know what you’re thinking, “who the hell has time to fit in a workout when I have to file a Motion for Summary Judgment before the clerk decides to reject it for being 12 seconds late?” We all know the struggle that is the gym life, but even sneaking away during your lunch break for a 30-minute workout can tremendously improve your mood, focus and energy for the rest of the day. The confidence and the jolt you get from just walking into the gym and doing something active will change your day drastically. Even if you can’t in the middle of the day, exercising before or after work can greatly help combat anxiety by releasing serotonin and endorphins and ultimately help you better fall asleep at night.
Sleep. You’re probably saying to yourself, “duh,” but what is the likelihood that my advice falls on deaf ears? The epidemic of eye bags among younger associates sustained on energy drinks and the promise of spontaneously growing wings seems to worsen by the year. Many attorneys try to give up some hours of sleep time to catch up with personal time in the evening. Terrible idea. Not only is this bad to your mental health, but it also slowly deteriorates your physical health and affects your productivity the next day. You basically put yourself on a downward spiral by not catching enough zzz. So, if you truly value the prospect of making partner one day, or even just springboarding to that highly coveted client, make sure you get as close to seven hours of sleep as you can. I would suggest eight, we all know that’s not happening. As the Sleep Doctor, Dr. Michael Breus says, “everything you do, you do better with a good night’s sleep.”
Cannabis (THC & CBD). Weed is a touching subject, one we don’t endorse, but at least can broach. The conversation won’t apply to everyone (given that not every state allows the use of marijuana recreationally or medically), but if you live in a weed-free state, taking advantage might prove beneficial. Research has shown that low doses of THC can help reduce stress and anxiety and also help with sleep. Overdoing it, however, could have a counter-effect. If you are open to the idea of smoking marijuana or taking an edible, doing it in moderation has its perks. If smoking isn’t your cup of tea, cannabidiol (CBD) supplements, creams and mouth drops are available, it seems like, anywhere these days. “CBD may help to improve both depression and anxiety, at least in part through its interactions with serotonin receptors in the brain. Research shows that CBD can reduce both mental and physical symptoms of anxiety,” says Sleep Doctor, Dr. Breus.
Work Should Stay There. Do you discuss work when you are not working? If you go on a lunch with colleagues, keep the work discussion in the office. Even if your lunch is a quick 20-minute getaway from the office, that 20 minutes is for recharging your brain and taking the pressure from the deadline filing you have to do when you get back. It is also beneficial to you and your family if you don’t bring the work back to your home. This will not only affect your mood but could take a major toll on the family. Home is for yourself and your family.
Sex. How many of you are on Tinder, Bumble, Grindr, etc. swiping away? You are better off for it. Having sex consistently is as important as anything mentioned on this list. Find time to date, socialize and have sex. Psychologist Dr. Andrew Goliszek says, “Sex is a great way to relieve stress. The benefits include release of endorphins and other hormones that elevate mood, and exercise, which itself is an effective stress reliever.”
Music. No matter what genre you prefer, music is a quick escape from the reality of the moment and can allow you to refocus on the task at hand. Many relaxing playlists have been created on Spotify and Apple Music that allow people to decompress and relax their mind.
The stress of living through litigation or closings can cause anxiety attacks, panic attacks and various other health issues. So, it is important to keep things into perspective. The people who toil at Biglaw and become partners are there because they love it. And they also love money and financial success as do the dependents who enjoy the fruits of their labor. To many lawyers, it’s not a chore to make their way to the office for ten hours a day. Nonetheless, 56% of Biglaw attorneys describe themselves as unsatisfied. For some, happiness exists outside of Biglaw, for others, it exists at another firm. It is not ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori,’ so whether you want to lateral, move in-house, or move outside of law entirely, our team of experts are more than happy to help you figure out what would make you the happiest.
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