The work culture for law firms is intense. Attorneys know that they will be expected to put in long hours for many years of their career, especially in the beginning. Unfortunately, studies show that productivity goes down the more stressed and exhausted an employee is.
“We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work instead of the quality of time we put in.” Arianna Huffington makes a good point that needs to be considered by law firms and attorneys. Stress, burnout, and lack of adequate sleep are seen as acceptable parts of being a successful professional, but that is not necessarily true.
Encourage your employees to take their vacation days. They need time away to recharge their energy levels and creativity. Huffington said, “Living a life in which we work all the time and never prioritize recharging simply isn’t sustainable – not for individuals, and not for companies either.”
Giving back as a law firm not only helps community, it helps your employees feel like they are involved in something greater. Many suggest that giving back helps boost productivity and fulfillment at work, which means your employees will work better and stick around longer. One study even suggests that volunteering once a week improves the well-being of an individual the same as a major salary boost. Just imagine how much happier your attorneys and other staff can be without you having to fork over more money.
Encourage everyone to get eight hours of sleep a night. This may not always be possible, but it should be the goal. Lack of proper sleep eventually results in errors, stress, burnout, and more. Huffington explains, “The science is in on what most people already intuitively know – we perform better, we think better, and we make better decisions when we’re refreshed and well-rested.”
Take moments to slow down. Encourage the attorneys and other staff at your firm to take personal time, perhaps during a lunch break or just mid-day break to rest and reflect. Mental illness is like a plague that runs through attorneys, so there needs to be as many opportunities as possible to take a mental break. Research has found that lawyers lead the nation in depression and suicide numbers. The ABA also estimates that roughly 20 percent of U.S. lawyers suffer from substance abuse and alcoholism.
See the following articles for more information:
- 25 Reasons Most Attorneys Hate the Practice of Law and Go Crazy (and What to Do About It)
- Why Most Attorneys Are Unhappy
- Why Do So Many Attorneys Ask "What's the Point?"
- Another Big Law Attorney I Know Just Died Young
- Seven Reasons Why Practicing Law Might Be More Stressful than Spending 18 Months in a POW Camp
- Attorneys Have Problems with Drinking
Every generation has gripes against the other generations but in the end it comes down to how things are organized. Everyone has different strengths, so find a way to give everyone a sense of belonging. Make sure your firm has a common mission that everyone is invested in. Some attorneys may need an explanation of how their work fits into the big picture. How things are communicated is also a big part of an attorney’s satisfaction with their law firm. Keep things professional and civil – no throwing things or yelling. Maintain a diverse law firm, with that diversity going all the way to the management level.
The work environment of a law firm is a representation of its people. An environment that respects its employees will allow for creativity and innovation. These kinds of law firms will have people flocking to them to work. Toxic law firms will have everyone exiting en masse to other law firms.
Suffering and burnout does not need to be the norm at law firms anymore. Stop the trend of attorneys being the most unhealthy and unhappy profession now by changing your law firm. A law firm where attorneys actually want to work will stick around, work harder, and continue the pattern of excellence.
- See Top 5 Ways to Help Your Attorneys Avoid Overworking and Becoming Addicted to Working All the Time for more information.