By Somita Basu
As Solo and Small Firm practitioners, most of thrive on hectic schedules and packed calendars. The thrill of bringing on a new client, serving them diligently, and receiving feedback about our results and work keeps us going in a demanding profession without much support.
But what happens when you start to feel like the challenge of the day ahead is not invigorating but is instead dreary and something you want to avoid? This is a classic symptom of burnout. Other symptoms can include increased cynicism and irritability, feelings of disillusionment, an increase in usage of drugs or alcohol, unexplained physical symptoms, and often trouble sleeping. If this sounds like a regular day in the life of a solo practitioner, I don’t blame you! I had the same thought.
It’s when these symptoms start to take over our enjoyment of our work and lives outside of work that burnout becomes a real problem. There is no easy fix for those of us battling the legal problems created by others (and sometimes created by our own clients) on a daily basis. But there are a few things that could help.
If you are in a particularly dire frame of mind, consider bringing on co-counsel for your particularly messy or problematic cases. Even having someone else handle a hearing or a filing can give you a bit of relief. Make sure you take an actual lunch break. Working through lunch ultimately harms your productivity by the end of the day. Get some fresh air. Going from your home to your car to your office and back again is likely not helping your frame of mind. Go for a quick walk. Even a 20 minute walk can do wonders for your stress levels (and your health!). If you find yourself feeling out of control during the day, try doing some deep breathing exercises. While this may sound corny or hokey on first blush (I know I thought it was), even one minute of deep breathing exercises can reset your heart rate and blood pressure and help you gain a better sense of control and calm.
Finally, be easy on yourself. We all juggle multiple priorities and responsibilities as solo and small firm attorneys. None of us is perfect and we shouldn’t try to be. Do your best when you can and ask for help when you need it.