Unfortunately, there’s a high occurrence of burnout for legal professionals. Burnout can be described as a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. Unsurprisingly, lawyers are at risk of developing burnout because their jobs are often demanding and stressful. In this blog post, we’ll explore the latest lawyer burnout statistics for 2022 and discuss some of the contributing factors. Stay tuned!
What is Lawyer Burnout?
In short, the World Health Organization defines burnout as a syndrome resulting from stress in the workplace that hasn’t been managed successfully. They further classified burnout into three dimensions: (1) exhaustion or depleted energy, (2) general negativism on one’s occupation; and (3) professional efficiency is reduced.
It’s important to note that burnout is only applicable in the workplace and cannot be treated as a medical condition.
As previously mentioned, burnout is very common in the practice of law. The reason for this is because of the long hours of work, constant deadlines, and sometimes seemingly impossible client demands. Of course, this is also on top of the requirements for billable hours in law firms. With this in mind, it’s no secret that the legal industry is a high-stress environment.
Even in law school, many law students experience their first taste of general stress that an unusually high number opt to drop out instead.
Lawyer Burnout Statistics
Here are some of the statistics on lawyer burnout, according to Bloomberg Law. They performed a survey with respondents from 614 in-house and law firm attorneys. Specifically, the survey asked questions about satisfaction in the law practice, workload, physical and mental health issues, job status, and workplace culture.
· In Q4 of 2021, respondents felt burnout about 52% of the time in their practice areas. This is more than the reported results for Q2 and Q3. It is also the first time since the survey’s 2020 inception that attorney burnout reached more than 50%.
· In addition, respondents also felt that their general well-being worsened. About 46% of them reported that their well-being worsened significantly from the previous 34% and 30% in Q3 and Q2, respectively.
· In retrospect, those who reported worsened well-being also reported a lower job satisfaction score. To illustrate, 70% of attorneys who reported a decline in well-being also experience burnout. Only 36% reported no change while 35% reported that there was an improvement in their general well-being. As a result, respondents who experienced worsened well-being also reported a higher incidence of substance abuse. In connection, they also experienced a higher percentage of disrupted sleep, anxiety, personal relationship issues, depression, and physical health issues.
· Additionally, respondents who reported that their well-being has worsened also experienced higher rates of incidences in their: (1) inability to disconnect from work, (2) heavier workload or responsibilities, (3) focus on work or administrative tasks, and (4) health issues, among others.
Though not explicitly stated in Bloomberg’s survey, the effects of burnout in lawyers are obstructive. These statistics say so much about the work-life balance, or lack thereof, of lawyers. As a result, too much work can impact their professional and personal lives which may even alienate their family members.
What are the Signs of Lawyer Burnout?
To avoid or limit burnout, it’s important to know what the signs are. Here are some of the red flags that a lawyer may be experiencing burnout:
1. Constantly Feeling Tired
Being tired or exhausted all the time is a common symptom of chronic stress that you might not even recognize. In short, if you’re getting a full night’s sleep but still feeling exhausted, it may be an early sign of burnout.
2. Irritability or Panic Attacks
Additionally, you might feel like you’re having anxiety, panic attacks, or even just feeling irritable all the time. Some lawyers experience these symptoms because of long work hours, lack of support from colleagues, or just being in an unhealthy work environment. Needless to say, these are definite signs of burnout.
3. Lack of Focus
If you’re normally focused on your work and have been recently feeling like you’re mentally retreating from your responsibilities at the office, you may need to rest. Having little to no focus is also a sure sign of burnout.
4. Work Cynicism
When starting in your profession, you’re typically full of optimism. However, if you’ve found yourself feeling negative at work lately, this might also be a contributing factor to burnout.
5. Substance Abuse
It’s natural to have an occasional drink after client meetings or long working hours, but if you develop a pattern of drinking every day or having more and more to drink each time you go out, then this might be a real problem. Alcohol or drug abuse are not only unhealthy, but they’re also very clear warning signs of burnout. Try reaching out to a support group or even your doctor if you feel like you need to address this issue.
6. Inconsistent Sleeping Patterns
If you normally have a good sleeping pattern, it could be easy to spot if you’re getting less and less sleep these days. As early as sleep issues begin to manifest, it’s important to seek help to avoid developing a long term sleeping disorder. Of course, lawyers are notorious for getting less sleep than normal due to the workload that they have, but this doesn’t mean you have to live your entire life without the proper sleep your body needs.
7. Physical Symptoms or Complaints
If you think you have unexplained physical symptoms like headaches, new sores, or other pains, it’s crucial that you get yourself checked out sooner rather than later. These issues might be psychosomatic manifestations of burnout.
All in all, there are a lot of red flags to be wary about when it comes to dealing with chronic workplace stress. The sooner these issues are addressed, the more likely you are to have a better outcome both professionally and personally.
Preventing Lawyer Burnout
Generally speaking, prevention is always better than cure. This is very true for old and young lawyers alike when it comes to burnout. In fact, one of the best ways to combat burnout is by preventing them. Here are some tips on how to do that:
1. Schedule Out Your Work and Leisure
Keeping a schedule is a good way to combat burnout. Of course, you must have a plan for your career and what you want to pursue for your future. For example, do you want to go into private practice to see if that can reduce your workload and create a better work-life balance? Do you plan to elevate your career in your current workplace? It’s important to think long-term about your professional development and create a plan for it.
Aside from your work schedule, make sure you also schedule in time to take a vacation with your friends or family. It’s crucial for your mental health that you take time to develop your personal relationships further through regular catch-ups. However, if you really can’t get away from work, why not work into your busy schedule a vacation while completing your continuing legal education (CLE) credits? Destination CLEs makes this possible by allowing you to obtain your CLE credit hours while enjoying a scenic vacation in beautiful locations around the world. Through the Eduvacations℠ of Destination CLEs, you can address your legal career requirements while giving more time to your personal life. You even get the chance to meet and network with leaders in the legal field!
2. Take a Closer Look at Your Work Processes
Thankfully, in this day and age, you can use technology to automate some of your legal processes to make your life a little easier. Plus, you can even hire a virtual assistant to help you with some of your admin tasks! There are also multiple softwares and apps made especially for legal organizations.
3. Address Any Issues Head-On
If you feel like you might be experiencing physical or mental health problems, it would be best to address them during their early stages. Namely, you should talk to a professional about your physical or mental health concerns. Never be ashamed to get help.
4. Set Boundaries
Only you know your own limits. Likewise, it’s important to remember that saying “no” is always an option. If you think your values and beliefs are not in line with your work, take time to reflect and set your boundaries. One of the main reasons lawyers experience burnout is because they simply can’t get off work. The body and mind need to rest—remember that!
5. Keep Improving
You wouldn’t be in the legal profession if you didn’t enjoy it. Above all, never stop learning and keep on improving your craft. In addition, take a close look at what you enjoy and make time to keep improving in those areas, too. Maybe you have hobbies outside of work like camping, fishing, or even bowling. All in all, it’s important to make time for your self-improvement, whether that’s within the legal profession or just personally.
Finally, we would like to leave you with some thoughts on the future of burnout. While the lawyer burnout statistics we covered are alarming and shouldn’t be taken lightly, it is heartening to see that many lawyers are aware of the problem and are working to find solutions.
We believe that by continuing to raise awareness and investigate new ways to prevent and treat burnout, the legal profession can overcome this epidemic.
What do you think? Are there other steps we can take as a community to address lawyer burnout? Let us know in the comments below!