The job has an inherent amount of conflict – lots of clients, lots of cases, lots of late nights.
Their own clients are emotionally charged. The other side is emotionally charged. Judges have a responsibility of moving cases along, so that adds a bit more tension to the mix.
That’s if you’ve found a job practicing law. For many young lawyers, landing a job and keeping it, while paying off law school bills, will activate the body’s fight or flight response.
Law also is a highly competitive business, and at any time a client can decide to find someone new, said Steve Modica, a lawyer in Rochester, New York.
A certain amount of workplace stress is expected in any field and any job. But added stress can be caused by any number of factors, including a sense of powerlessness on the job, problems with managers and high workload and low pay, according to the American Psychological Association.
A stressed-out worker may be apathetic and irritable. He or she may experience health problems, experience fatigue or have trouble concentrating.
And he or she may be a drain on an employer.
Stress is not only harmful to individuals, but also to the organizations where they work, according to Tami Best, who is healthy worksites coordinator at Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency in Rochester. A registered dietician and certified diabetes educator, Best helps Rochester area businesses with wellness programs and resources.
It may be fairly common knowledge that stress leads to all sorts of serious physical and mental problems for an individual, which results in absenteeism and unproductivity at work. Yet, the problem persists.
“In general, there is a causal relationship between stress and disease,” Best said. “We start to see significant consequences to unmanaged stress.”
There are ways to manage stress at a law firm or in the workplace that can be simple and done individually or may involve a team of workers.
Everyone worries – that’s human nature – but it also sucks up a lot of precious time, Best said.
Writing down the issues that cause worry, for example, gives a person control over what he or she has control over. Writing also helps a person to stay organized, which helps alleviate stress.
Once things are written down, appraise them. One may find that a little bit less time devoted to tasks such as texting, surfing the Internet or some meetings and phone calls may lead to more time devoted to personal growth, Best said.
For example, cutting 30 minutes of TV a day will result in 182 extra hours a year for something else.
“A small change can bring profound results,” Best said.
Exercise also is a huge help. Many companies encourage employees to get together and take walks. Practicing deep-breathing exercises or simply stretching can be done while sitting at the desk.
A short meditation break not only is an effective relaxation technique, but helps Best focus on the tasks ahead.
“Don’t feel like you’re doing nothing,” Best said. “You’re doing something – you’re practicing focus.”
Of course, this is a work environment and work needs to be done. Modica said he finds it helpful to stay on task and as a principal in the firm that requires him to make sure others do the same.
“Sometimes lawyers, by nature or by practice, tend to do things last minute,” Modica said.
– By Mike Murphy