Graduated law school: check! Took the bar exam: check! Passed the bar exam: check! Got sworn in as an attorney and can practice law: check! I have accomplished my dream to become a lawyer! Since November, I have been practicing law in Michigan and working at a law firm. With this new phase in my life comes new challenges, adventures, and problems. Although I am still a new attorney, I have learned a lot and continue to grow as a person and legal professional. One thing that I have had to learn is how to manage stress while practicing as an attorney. Here are some of my tips to help you deal with the problems and stress that come with practicing law.
The Stress Doesn’t End With Law School
I don’t know about you, but I had this blissful dream that all my stress and problems would disappear after I graduated law school and passed the bar exam. It seems silly to think that way now, but, I was right in a sense, many of my previous stressors went away after I became an attorney. I don’t have to worry about classes, studying, taking the bar, getting a job, and trying to manage work and school at the same time. However, being in practice comes with its own set of problems and stressors. You represent real people with real problems. You are responsible to use your expertise and experience to be a good lawyer and zealously advocate for your clients! This can be overwhelming and stressful for a new associate.
Identify The Problem
You cannot fix a problem or manage stress unless you know what the problem is. You will want to reflect on what is causing you anxiety or stress. Is this related to work or a personal issue? Is this something that is actually already a problem or just the beginning? If the issue is related to work, figure out what specifically the issue may be. Is it related to a specific case? Does it involve a matter you don’t know how to solve? Does the problem lay with the facts of a case or something regarding the underlying law? Once you address what the issue may be, you can decide what your action plan is to solve it. This could mean you discuss the problem with a supervising attorney or do some more research on this issue. Or it might mean reorganizing your thought process or taking steps to handle a personal issue. Identifying the problem and making an action plan is a great way to help manage your stress!
Focus on What Your Can Control
With the practice of law, sometimes there are things that you cannot control. You can’t predict the future or what is on opposing counsel’s minds. Unfortunately, sometimes things do not work out the way you intended or an argument wasn’t as persuasive as you thought it would be. Instead of focusing on all the things that can go wrong or how you wish things were different, you should think about what is within your control. You can make sure you understand the law and your client’s case. You can stay organized and make sure you meet deadlines.
Take Time Off
Many associates, especially newly admitted ones, tend to put their nose to the grindstone and focus on putting in a ton of hours and getting those billables in. However, this can be very taxing to the mind and body. Many new associates are afraid to take time off because they feel it will negatively impact their performance or reviews. Let me be very clear: your mental and physical health are extremely important. The legal field has some of the highest rates of depression and substance abuse. Sometimes you have to take time off for your health and safety. It doesn’t have to be a week-long trip or expensive vacation. It can just be a long weekend stay-cation or a trip up to your hometown to see your family! Just make sure to take time off if you need it.
Although you are no longer in law school, there are still numerous resources to help you find support and mentors. Something great about the legal profession are all the connections you can make through networking. There are countless law associations, groups, councils, and clubs for law school graduates and attorneys. In these organizations, you can find amazing colleagues who can help mentor you in your practice and be there for you as a friend as well. They make great resources not only for tips about being an attorney but also to help support you as well.
Practicing Law Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful!
Yes, being an attorney and being responsible for clients can be overwhelming and intimidating. And there will always be problems and issues for you to address. However, you can successfully manage your cases and stress. Just remember to keep in tune with yourself and make sure you know what would be best for you!
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