As many people in the industry have learned the hard way, life in the legal profession isn’t all the glitz and glamor you see on TV. In fact, it can be downright dismal. It’s an unfortunate reality that lawyers have higher rates of substance abuse, depression, and anxiety.
How bad is it? A recent study found that a third of lawyers are problem drinkers, 28% have depression, and 19% exhibit symptoms of anxiety. For a quick comparison, only 6.8% of Americans have problems with alcohol, 6.7% suffer from depression, and 18% deal with anxiety.
Of course, no one goes into the legal field with the intent of developing a disorder. With that in mind, a 2015 study looked at what makes lawyers more likely to have good relationships with their work.
Invigorating the Profession
Here’s what the experts suggest for enjoying a healthy relationship with work as a lawyer:
1. Make decisions that are beneficial to you. Specifically, you should make choices that promote autonomy, competence, and internal motivation. Researchers have found that if you’re prevented from making those choices, you’re more likely to be unhappy on the job. On the flip side, if you can make your own decisions, perform work well, and find yourself excited to go into the office, you’ll likely be happier. If you can’t make those decisions in your current position, that could be a sign it’s time for a change.
2. Enjoy time with your loved ones. If necessary, schedule time to do so, and protect that time the same way you do for an important client. Spending time with your family and friends influences your lifestyle and decisions.
3. Take care of your physical and mental health. While it’s tempting to spend all your time in the office, you’ll eventually end up being counterproductive. Regular exercise, vacations, and a healthy work-life balance will keep you feeling fresh — and that will keep you productive when you’re behind your desk. If it seems like there’s too much work for you to walk away, deliberately schedule some time for yourself, even if it’s just an hour a week. Keep taking out more time for yourself until you’re regularly enjoying life outside of the office again.
4. Pick the right location. While the researchers found a correlation between practicing in a smaller town and being happier, you’ll need to decide for yourself whether your community is the right fit for you. Some people thrive in the hustle and bustle of metropolises like New York, but others do best in Small Town, USA. Either way, your environment can have a big impact on your mental health.
5. Give back to your community. Researchers have also found positive benefits from doing pro bono work — even when the pro bono work is mandatory. Schedule time to give to organizations that matter to you.
Much of our mental and physical health relies on having control over our own work schedules. LexInsight helps contract lawyers create convenient schedules by connecting them with organizations in need of their skills.