In law firm practices today, while you may not be sure of income or jobs, there's one thing you can count on to be constant – and that's stress. So, understanding the nature of stress in a simple manner, and being able to tackle with stress from a strategic point of view is a mark of competence, and essential for survival in one's career.
Too many lawyers, who do not possess a simple and logical concept of stress, a coherent idea of how stress forms and builds up, and a grasp of stress-intervention techniques that work in a law firm environment, sink into despair and substance abuse killing their careers. This is why, in this article, I have dealt with stress in the law firm environment from a broad perspective useful for tackling a lawyer's personal stress situation.
Stress is the term given to the mass of intangible and unmanageable demands of work and personal life that tangibly manifests itself through a deterioration of physical and psychological states and habits of a person. So, the only real way to kill and remove stress is to identify the stressors or the demands of work and personal life which are consciously or subconsciously perceived as unmanageable, and change things about them, so that either they become manageable, or are removed.
The myth about workloads and unmanageable hours
Since we're talking about stress in the law firm environment or in a lawyer's life, workloads and unmanageable hours, are of course, of prime importance. At least, that is how, the pundits perceive stress in a lawyer's life.
However, my personal experience says that workload or hours-related-stress in a lawyer's life is not related to the load of work or the number of hours when related to quantifiable excess, but to perceptions of components being unmanageable or unfair.
Every lawyer out there has entered the industry to work and earn and build their careers, and no one I know of, except those already damaged by stress, are unwilling to welcome more work or work more hours.
So it's not the workload that causes stress, but that component of the workload which is perceived as unfair, unappreciated or unmanageable due to lack of resources, personal competence, or fair remuneration.
I have seen lawyers work more than seven days at a stretch 24X7, just dozing in short spells on their chairs instead of sleeping, not going anywhere except the bathroom, having food at their tables, and completing workloads that seem inhuman by normal standards, and still not being stressed and remaining happy – for at the end of the tunnel they were getting paid thrice their normal rates for those hours and there were other perks thrown in with a paid vacation at the end of the spell of that special work.
If, as a lawyer, you know what I am speaking of, then you know I am telling the truth, and it is not the workload or hours that cause the stress, but those parts of the workload which is affected by lack of resources, lack of fair play, lack of fair remuneration, and lack of appreciation that causes real hurtful stress.
So, in a law firm-environment, to bring stress under control – time management and the development of good work habits can solve the problem of regular work-stress, which is important, but the bigger problem is the stress caused from a negation of beliefs, values, and fairness.
I believe, in a law-firm environment, the most important way to deal with stress is to have a straight talk with seniors or related authorities, wherever, and whenever you feel a component of the workload or hours hurts your values and beliefs about fair play. Only that can take care of the real stress while working in a law firm. The rest can be brought under control by culturing good habits of managing time and dealing with people.
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