The practice of law can be difficult. Dealing with certain clients can be emotionally taxing. It can also be hard at times dealing with the court system and other legal professionals in contested litigation where tensions and emotions can escalate.
For those who own their own law firm, the business aspects of being an attorney can also be challenging. Not only do these lawyers have to provide competent, communicative and diligent legal services, but they also have to worry about running their law practice in a way that best serves the clients and ensures the law firm is not running in the red financially. Worrying about all of these items can be overwhelming for many lawyers.
While not an all-inclusive list, below are some tips for helping lawyers avoid burnout:
- An attorney must be selective about the cases they take. Some potential clients might be highly emotional and hard to deal with if the attorney were to take the case. For this reason, it might be better for an attorney to pass on some cases to avoid burnout.
- Some potential clients might not be good payers if the attorney takes the case. In these instances, an attorney might be better to pass on the case. It is usually much better for an attorney to have a limited number of high-paying, and manageable clients, than to have a larger number of bad-paying and unmanageable clients. In rare circumstances where a bad-paying and highly difficult client hires the firm, it might be best to withdraw from so case — so long as you are complying with the rules and not prejudicing the client.
- Lawyers need to have great paralegals/legal assistants. Lawyers also need administrative staff to help their practice excel. If an attorney tries to do it all, it can be easy to become overwhelmed. An attorney should figure out what they are good at, and where they have weaknesses, and surround themselves with good employees who can help fill in the gaps.
- Most attorneys could benefit from having excellent practice management software. Practice management software can help keep an attorney organized. It can help ensure that all court dates are docketed, that all client documents are retained on the cloud and that the business aspects of the firm (from budgeting, bank accounts and conflict checking) can easily be managed in one place.
- While attorneys might not like to have to monitor things like accounts receivables and billable hours, to avoid burnout, this can be important. Otherwise, attorneys can spend a lot of time burning the midnight oil on cases where they are not going to be paid. When an attorney is working on matters where the client is not paying, this can prevent them from taking new cases where they would be paid. When an attorney is spending a lot of time on matters where they are not receiving payment for their time, this can lead to frustration, financial hardship and burnout. It can also result in significant worry about whether the law firm can make payroll and other financial obligations.
- It is also essential to stay very organized. Staying organized can lead to less stress and burnout. Many state bars recommend sending monthly status letters to clients. If attorneys did this, it would help keep them organized in terms of their cases. It would also help keep clients informed about their case status. When clients feel as if their lawyer is updating them, clients generally are much happier. When clients are happier, this usually results in the lawyer experiencing fulfillment.