If you’ve started a law degree, your head’s likely riddled with questions and concerns about what to expect and how to do well – especially considering the Pandemic and its impact. Even if you’re further on in your career, the pandemic has made things more stressful than ever.
Lawyer burnout is a serious problem. While the work can be incredibly fulfilling, it can also be stressful and exhausting. With that in mind, I have some tips to help you prevent burnout, whether you are just a student – or you are already far along in your career. These tips aren’t just useful for those in the legal profession, however, they could have very real impacts on how much you enjoy your life, no matter who you are.
Read, Then Read Some More
Reading provides you with a fantastic opportunity to develop both personally and professionally and you can learn so much from the teachings of others in books. If I could go back and re-do my uni years or early career, I’d definitely commit to reading more. Having said that, don’t let it consume you – it’s literally impossible to read everything, so concentrate on key pieces and really take it in.
On top of your course recommended reading which will help to guide you through lectures and seminars as a student, you should try to make sure you get in some reading in your free time too, even as a professional. Law.ac.uk rounded up a great list of 5 must-reads for future law students; ‘Letters to a Law Student’ is a favourite. Reading is a great habit, whether you are a student or a seasoned legal professional.
If you are armed with the right knowledge, then you won’t need to spend time going over things or retracing your steps looking up answers. Feeling overwhelmed is a big symptom of burnout, and this can help alleviate that.
Don’t Let Failures Hold You Back
Michelle Obama is one of the world’s most famous qualified lawyers. In her book, Becoming, she opened up about failing The Bar and what she learnt from it.
She said that before law school and even during, she’d never failed a test in her life, so when she “screwed up” she felt ashamed and like a letdown. Nevertheless, she got over it, dusted herself off and studied extra hard, she went on to pass The Bar.
Although the former First Lady studied in America, her story is relevant to people everywhere. It’s a reminder that sometimes we may not do as well as we want to, but, we can always get back up and try again. If something comes up you weren’t expecting, reach out to your lecturers or seniors in your firm for feedback and advice on how you can improve for next time and don’t let it get to you. Feeling like a failure can be disheartening, but you must always pick yourself up and dust yourself off afterwards.
Your network is one of the most powerful assets you’ll have in your life and you never know when you’ll need help from it so be sure to foster great relationships with fellow students, professors and any professionals you meet in your career. Social media such as LinkedIn is a great place to build your network. I personally recommend adding people you’ve actually met or interacted with in person but you can still follow law firms on there. The Student Lawyer has put together some great tips for using LinkedIn as a law student which is well worth taking a look at if you’re interested in improving your presence on the platform, even after you’ve finished your studies.
Use Your Spare Time Wisely
We’re not suggesting that you should never have fun, but by applying for internships and summer jobs within the legal industry you’ll get some real hands-on experience which will put you ahead of the game in classes and help you when you’re applying for graduate positions. It gets your CV off to a cracking start and is the perfect networking opportunity too. Even something small like a part-time role or summer job as a paralegal can open so many opportunities for growth and development.
Some university degrees include a placement year which we highly recommend so you can gain first-hand experience practising law. This is useful advice whether you’re in law or not, if you feel like you are wasting time, it’s much more likely you will feel burnt out.
No matter your industry, having a mentor can provide you with invaluable help both with uni life and your career. After all, these are the people that have already gone through what you are now, so they have the benefit of hindsight and can point you in the right direction. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes and could be mutual friends, your professors, or even a well-known professional in the field.
Many of the world’s most prominent lawyers had mentors. The best way to learn is under a great legal mind. If you wish to become a barrister, one of the required steps is to complete a pupillage, which is a year-long training period spent in a barristers’ chambers. For example, Bill Neukom, one of the world’s most famous lawyers, was mentored under the judge Theodore S. Turner, who he called “a Renaissance man who loved the law”. Another example is former Solicitor General of India, Gopal Subramanium, who worked under D. P. Wadhwa, a former Supreme Court judge, early in his career.
Many universities offer schemes that pair you up with volunteer mentors, or will at least assist you in your search. This is something that you should definitely take advantage of while you are a student, as it could offer invaluable experience in the world of law and really set you up for your career. If you’ve already left university, then see if you can find someone at your firm to mentor you. Again, this is great advice no matter what career you’re in. If you have someone you feel is guiding you along the right path, you are much less likely to feel lost.
We hope these tips have given you a little more clarity on how to prevent yourself from burning out. Remember that you’re always developing and learning, so don’t be afraid to speak up, ask questions and stay engaged with your fellow students or professionals. Lectures and seminars will allow you to open your mind to new ideas and ways of thinking you may not have considered before, but you can also ask those in your firm for help later in your career.