Is This You?
“It sure looks like I have it made. I have a great marriage, a wonderful family and a good job. I enjoy the respect and prestige accorded to being a successful professional. Everything I had hoped and worked for are materializing and my dreams are coming true. There is just one problem – I should be happy but I am not…
I can’t say exactly what but something seems wrong. I am tired, apprehensive, and edgy. Often I feel out of control, unbalanced… as if I am only living to work. The pressure to produce is overwhelming and the deadlines never end. I need to be a winner all the time: for clients, my firm, and my family. And of course, my reputation.
I know that there must be more to living. I am frustrated with the long, late hours that affect my marriage and family. I really thought that being a lawyer would be more gratifying. But what else can I do now? Where do I go from here? Isn’t it too risky to consider a change? Do I really have options? Are they realistic?”
Or maybe, this you? “My professional career is going the way I planned and I see no hope that it is going to get any better. I am at a dead-end and there is no opportunity for advancement.” Or, perhaps, “I’ve had an illness that has affected my career and personal life. Everything is a disaster and I need a fresh start…. A second chance… but how do I go about it?”
Are You Stretched to the Breaking Point?
If this sounds familiar to you, maybe it will be helpful to know that you are not alone. Career dissatisfaction is spreading substantially throughout the legal profession. A recent survey by the American Bar Association states that “lawyers are stretched to the breaking point.” Nearly three quarters of those interviewed say that “they feel worn out by the end of the work day.” The unrelenting stress and demands of law practice are raising quality of life issues. Lawyers’ discontent has escalated over the past six years from 35 percent to 45 percent. The critical shortage of time associated with these issues contributes to the decline in the psychological and physical health and well being of many lawyers. There is an increase in overall illness, substance abuse, emotional problems and depression among lawyers. These statistics apply to associates in their 20’s as well as partners in their 40’s and 50’s.
I f you identify with any of these scenarios and are wondering if it may be time to aspire to to a better balance, you will be encouraged to hear that there are hopeful alternatives for your future, either within law, or if necessary, in another field.
Do You Recognize the Symptoms of Stress or Workplace Overload?
The legal profession is conducive to high stress levels and intense work styles. Most lawyers, unfortunately, are reluctant to talk about how they are feeling. They prefer to shrug it off or contend that the “the pressures go with the territory.” As a result, physical and emotional well being gradually begins to suffer as does job performance and family relationships. Thus, lawyers often remain unaware of the harm being done to them, their practice and their family until faced with a serious illness, divorce or job burnout.
One of the key steps in changing these conditions is to recognize and accept that excessive stress or workplace overload is causing you to feel increasing anxiety about your work and family. Blaming yourself is neither helpful nor objective. A more discerning way to wellness is to identify and eliminate as many of stress symptoms that you can.
Some obvious signs that you are “overloaded” include:
Physical Symptoms: Insomnia, hypersomnia, fatigue, headaches, digestive disorders, anxiety attacks, back pain, palpitations, inability to concentrate, increased smoking or drinking or drug use, loss or increase of appetite.
Personality Changes: Depression, general irritability, diminished self esteem, withdrawal, dread of going to work, loss of interest in hobbies or recreation, feelings of hopelessness or despair.
Professional Performance: Lowered productivity, excuse making, failure to respond to phone messages, over extended lunches, tardiness, failure to make appointments, procrastination, missed deadlines, declining quality of legal work.
The more of these symptoms you have, the more likely a problem exists for which appropriate professional services are recommended.
Are Your Career Expectations Being Met?
Whether you are burned out, dissatisfied with your present circumstances, not sure how to find new employment or weary and frustrated with the imbalance in your life, there are practical ways to take charge of your destiny! As in any transition, the risk rewards and security questions must be carefully examined and weighted in order to make wise decisions. It is not an easy path. First and foremost, you need to believe that none of this must be done alone. Help is available from those who understand your personal and professional needs, and who are experienced in assisting lawyers like you in finding the answer that is right for you. Where can you go for help?
Career Planning Services Can Help
Career Planning Services (CPS) offers a comprehensive and confidential method to re-discover you life and professional possibilities. While creating a progressive strategy that looks to the future with optimism and direction, you will complete a “career check-up” to identify what may be going wrong and how to correct the situation.
CPS acts as a catalyst by helping you to develop an awareness and insight of your specific talents, abilities, skills and the value of your life experience. The CPS agenda is designed to help you gain a stronger sense of self, and a heightened level of career gratification and satisfaction.
CPS can help you to:
- Evaluate, renew and re-energize your career goals.
- Re-clarify your values and priorities
- Explore whether you want a job change or career alteration
- Transition into a more gratifying employment opportunity
- Discover the possibilities for contractual employment
- Balance the demands of family and career.
Learn more about us.
Contact us today!
A senior reporter for the North Carolina Lawyers Weekly called me recently. She was writing an article titled “Career Progressions and Stages of Lawyer Development.” We spent 45 minutes on the telephone discussing my reflections as a career consultant who has been counseling lawyers for the past 18 years. For decades prior to the 2007 onset of the recession, lawyers had an understanding that if they achieved their J.D. degree and did satisfactory work or better, there would be employment opportunities for them. Even Tier- 3 law school graduates or those who may have finished in the bottom half of their law school class could find work. … [Read More...]
I am reminded of reading a recent obituary in the New York Times about Brooks Thomas, a former CEO of Harper & Row, the distinguished national publishing house. Thomas, a Pennsylvania native, had been with an elite New York City Law Firm. He left to become general counsel and then CEO of the company. “I felt if I stayed in a law firm I’d spend my whole life knowing more and more about less and less,” he was quoted saying. … [Read More...]
Lawyer Assistance Program professionals understand that life’s circumstances can cause emotional stress, depression, loss of self-esteem and a feeling of being out of control. Whether related to employment, family or other personal problems, substance abuse or other health problems, help is only a phone call away. Confidential professional and peer assistance is available. All that is required to begin the assistance process is a confidential, no-obligation, toll-free telephone call to a qualified care professional at the Lawyers’ Confidential Helpline. This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and holidays. … [Read More...]