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How to cope with stress if you're a lawyer

by Mark Miller 4 min read

How to cope with stress if you're a lawyer

Photo by Jesse Collins on Unsplash

Being a lawyer is so stressful that 44 percent of practicing attorneys wouldn't recommend the field to a young person.

Stress can wreck your general quality of life, provoke anger, cause you to drink, and even ruin your sex life (egads!). And it's like a feedback loop: The more of these types of problems you have, the more stress you experience.

Attorneys have a lot to worry about, between getting justice for their clients and winning a case or an award so they can make a profit or get re-elected or keep their job.

Plus lawyers work long hours and deal with very complicated issues that require a lot of training and intelligence to deal with. Not just anyone can be a lawyer.

An article on TheBalanceCareers.com states [1]:

Deadlines, billing pressures, client demands, long hours, changing laws, and other demands all combine to make the practice of law one of the most stressful jobs out there. Throw in rising business pressures, evolving legal technologies, and climbing law school debt and it’s no wonder lawyers are stressed.

The stress and demands of practicing law have fueled high levels of career dissatisfaction among members of the bar. Depression and suicide are common among lawyers and 44 percent of those recently surveyed by the American Bar Association said they would not recommend the profession to a young person.

Why lawyers experience so much stress

The website Attorney at Work says lawyers are particularly prone to getting burned out because [3] they:

  • ... suffer “secondary trauma” while dealing with the stress, anger, frustration, and emotions of our clients.
  • ... often have a sense of perfectionism, that everything has to be exactly right, or we risk absolute failure.
  • ... feel our clients are never truly pleased with our work.
  • ... must sometimes act in a way that isn’t aligned with our core values.
  • The job often requires extremely long hours that are not physically, mentally, or emotionally sustainable.

The signs of stress and burnout

The Cleveland Clinic has an excellent article about chronic (long-term) stress, which states [2]:

When a person has long-term (chronic) stress, continued activation of the stress response causes wear and tear on the body. Physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms develop. Physical symptoms of stress include:

  • Aches and pains.
  • Chest pain or a feeling like your heart is racing.
  • Exhaustion or trouble sleeping.
  • Headaches, dizziness or shaking.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Muscle tension or jaw clenching.
  • Stomach or digestive problems.
  • Trouble having sex.
  • Weak immune system

Stress can lead to burnout, which can deeply affect the quality of your life and make you question  a career choice. The site Attorney At Work explains what it means to be burnt out [3].


The site says anyone is prone to having some bad days, "but if you experience any of these warning signs on a consistent basis, you may be on the path to professional burnout":

  • Ending every workday feeling highly stressed.
  • Feeling a knot in the stomach on Sunday night.
  • Disengagement from work, family, friends and health.
  • Feeling alienated and tired, which may also mean anxious, depressed, exhausted, ineffective, overcommitted, guilty, unable to say no, or even to the point of giving up hope.
  • Experiencing the physical consequences of stress: ulcers, upset stomach, headaches, backaches, colitis, lack of concentration, rage, even a heart attack or stroke.

Realizing the signs of burnout

 Tips on dealing with stress, for lawyers

Attorney At Work gives several coping strategies for attorneys experiencing burnout:

  • Assess your physical condition. If you feel unhealthy (see symptoms above), your body may be sending a message that something  is wrong.
  • Do not strive for perfection. If you fall short, it can add to the stress. Be satisfied with very good results.
  • Take interesting vacations that invigorate you while allowing you to relax.
  • Get plenty of exercise and take care of your body.
  • Learn coping skills instead of turning to bad habits like overeating or gambling, or drinking. Not your patterns in eating and using prescription medicines. If they are unhealthy, change them.
  • Find activities away from work that bring enjoyment and relaxation.
  • If you find you are too busy in the community or your social life, learn how to say no. Also learn how to say no at work if you are overwhelmed.
  • Get your eight hours of sleep. See our blog [4] for sleeping tips and hygiene.
  • Enlist the help of a professional mentor to help you through tough professional challenges. If you need it, get a therapist who can help you attain a healthy life.

The Cleveland Clinic has a bit of very good advice:

  • Stay connected with people who keep you calm, make you happy, provide emotional support and help you with practical things. A friend, family member, neighbor or member of your church can become a good listener or share responsibilities so that stress doesn’t become overwhelming.
  •  A healthy dose of caffeine with B vitamins

    Caffeine in the right amounts and at the right time can help get you through the day.

    Of course, you might not want to fill up on coffee and lattes and other caffeinated liquids, especially if you will be in court. But you still may want that caffeine.

    Try Viter Energy Mints [5], with both caffeine and B vitamins. The tasty mints perk you up and freshen your breath.

    Each has 40 mg of caffeine in a sugar-free mint, equal to about one-quarter of a mug of coffee. You can take one mint per half-hour or hour to get a steady stream of caffeine into your bloodstream, or four in quick succession to equal about one mug of java.


    [1] https://www.thebalancecareers.com/lawyer-career-drawbacks-2164594

    [2] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress

    [3] https://www.attorneyatwork.com/survival-skill-for-lawyers-and-stress/

    [4] https://www.goviter.com/blogs/viter-energy-blog/sleeping-longer-can-make-you-feel-more-tired

    [5] https://amzn.to/3jb7Gwg

    [6] https://www.goviter.com/collections/viter-energy-mints

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