Burnout, Fact of Life – Isn’t It
People working in the legal profession and related sectors are facing a seemingly endless onslaught from:
- increasingly heavy workloads,
- challenging targets,
- stressful client meetings,
- telephone calls,
- networking and business development meetings and
- continuous professional development training courses and webinars.
However, in modern times, the concerted effort of plate-spinning all this activity in a seemingly short space of time is enough to make the most experienced professional’s head spin. A large proportion of people working under these stressful find themselves in a situation where they find themselves burnt out.
But What Is Burnout And What Factors Are Leading To It?
The term ‘burnout’ has been loosely defined as the human condition of perceptively feeling emotionally and physically weary. There is often a vicious circle where professionals are subjected to extensive periods where they find themselves exposed to intense pressure from work and their private lives which can directly lead to a downward spiral of feeling stress which can then manifest itself in feelings of ‘burnout’.
So Take A Good Look At My Face?
Some people may feel tired but do not think it is affecting their work or arguably more importantly their family life. However, burnout can have several different symptoms and it is very often difficult to spot the tell-tale signs when it is happening to a person. Symptoms include but are not limited to a perception of feelings of:
- being trapped
- doubting one-self,
- having to take a longer time than expected over work activities, and/or
- being perceptively overwhelmed
Many law firms have ignored the need to support the mental health needs of colleagues and this culture needs to change. Law firms should recognize the responsibilities towards their staff by putting mechanisms in place to identify the above potential burnout symptoms. Once identification has been made the firms should be putting measures in place to mitigate against the probability of their respective colleagues exhibiting the signs. Law firms and In-House Legal teams should also be realising that burnout is not only the result of work-related pressure. It has also been found to emanate from the direct relationship of correlation and causation between the combination of the pressure exerted by family life.
What Can Lawyers Do Beat The Burnout Blues?
As the old saying goes, ‘there ain’t no cure for the burnout blues’. However, law firms need to be collaborating closely with colleagues at all levels and especially those at more junior levels to reduce the chances of colleagues getting burnt out. They should be communicating with less experienced colleagues about the support which is available to strike the important balance between supporting their mental health inside and external to the workplace and staying on top of their workloads. Law firm managers are crucial to this, and they should be encouraging less experienced staff to
- directly approach them
- communicate with them about their workloads and any important looming case management, search, and filing deadlines
- take their holidays and
- use their days off for their well-being
There are endless horror stories emerging of lawyers who have failed to communicate with their superiors, and missed important deadlines and the ensuing cover-up of errors has exacerbated the situation. Evidence later emerges and the lawyer finds themselves disciplined by the regulator. Law firms need to strike the right work-life balance and support their colleagues by:
- encouraging colleagues to be honest about their workloads
- exploring flexible work options
- understanding that people have private lives
- motivating staff to be productive
- using automatic responses to emails
- considering implementing a portal for clients to access their files and
- improving efficiency by adopting e-signing and auto-marketing.
If these measures can be adopted, they will mitigate the risk of the dreaded burnout.
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THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES
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