How to Have a Happier Life in Law

Lawyer burnout is all too common. These tips will help you live better, and work smarter.

I recall one morning, on one of the last occasions I was enjoying the usual robing room banter with Bar colleagues, waiting for my case to be called on at Bradford Crown court, I could overhear countless lawyers greeting one another. It caused me to reflect on how frequently it was that when asked, “How are you?” Barristers and Solicitors would reply, “Busy”. Not “Really well, thank you,” not “Happy, thanks,” but “Busy” – as if their standing as a successful lawyer would in some way be diminished if they didn’t take every opportunity to tell their audience that their practice was thriving. But how does “busy” really feel? Often, it feels loaded, pressured, frenetic, or even angst-ridden. What happened to the person behind the Practice? Our ability to simply be without permanently engaging our game face?

That got me thinking of other small tweaks we as lawyers could make to our everyday working lives to improve our wellness, whether through the language we use, the thoughts we have, or the habits we adopt.

Here are my suggestions:

  • I’ve already touched on the language we use. Are there other ways you can change the language, and even thoughts, you usually use to adopt a more positive outlook? Is self-depricating humor serving you? And how about thinking, for example, of what effect these different phrases might have to your daily outcomes and your general sense of wellbeing: “I choose to…” as opposed to “I need to… do some work/ go to the gym…”; “I prefer to…” instead of “I must/ I’ve got to… find time to develop my career”; “I will…” not “If only I could… secure a regular client base.” In my experience, positive thoughts and language, combined with positive actions, lead to more positive outcomes
  • Smile! The endorphins released around your body when you smile have such an instantaneous effect that you can’t fail to feel, even temporarily, a changed and more positive mindset.
  • Breathe: deeply, with your eyes shut, from your core, and with a long exhale to finish. Just allowing yourself that single moment to course your body full of air with a reflective pause can be all it takes to feel grounded and back on point.
  • How many of us have experienced that afternoon eye flicker? The 3 pm graveyard slot in a trial, where interviews are simply being read into the record for the jury, is one you already know like the back of your hand. When you have an opportunity for “a natural break,” change your state – get away from your immediate environment, move away from your desk, even go to the toilet and do some star jumps if you are able! A change in state can work wonders for your energy levels, and altering how alert you feel.
  • Focus on nature where you are able. Even if it’s a picture of a country road on the office wall, or a thriving plant in the corner of your room, allow yourself a moment to shift your focus, then return with more energy and vigour. Better still, look, or even get, out of the office; incorporating exercise and the outdoors in to your working day are frequently credited for an increase in performance, productivity and well-being.
  • Keep yourself well-hydrated throughout the day. Even when it is so easy to skip lunch with deadlines and meetings and countless other things on our “to do” list getting in the way, keeping our water levels topped up is vital to improve, amongst other things, muscle function, digestion, and even our state of mind.

Nikki Alderson is a specialist corporate and executive coach (and former criminal barrister) empowering female lawyers to achieve their career ambition whilst creating congruent lives. For more information, email [email protected] to arrange a free, no obligation consultation.

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