Management must commit to fight burnout

Burnout continues to be a major issue for the legal industry at many seniority levels. In May, legal career coach Tami Irokawa McGonical, a former lawyer for Clifford Chance, called the rise she has seen in burnout in the profession “devastating”. Many associates have left the profession altogether, often due to their own feelings of burnout.

It’s easy to attribute burnout solely to a culture of long hours, and in fact, in the case of many lawyers, it’s almost certainly the biggest contributing factor. From my work as a coach, I know that many lawyers not only work the hours demanded by the job, but continue to “work in their head” long after the last email has been sent. The perfectionist nature of many legal minds can lead to high levels of rumination and worry, both of which are risk factors for burnout. It’s worth taking the time to consider other factors that can lead to burnout. Renowned legal consultant Chrissie Wolfe left private practice in part due to burnout from a lack of intellectual stimulation due to the repetitive nature of some of her work. Others left due to burnout due to poor relationships with their supervisor, or being the target of constant microaggressions and feelings of exclusion. Others still suffered from burnout as a result of conflict in their personal life and, even when an EAP was available, felt that asking for help could damage their reputation and their perceived competence. In cultures lacking psychological safety and inclusion, they preferred to remain silent. This harmed their physical, mental and emotional health. So one thing is clear; we must reduce burnout in the legal sector, but how? While remote work can pose challenges to inclusion, not assuming that everyone will be better off working in the office as much as possible risks missing some important points. Research shows that many introverts relished the ability to focus uninterrupted while working from home and are hesitant to spend too much time sharing an office again. Working from home reduces the microaggressions that many diverse lawyers have to tolerate while on the go.

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