Seven Reasons Why Practicing Law Might Be More Stressful Than Spending 18 Months in a POW Camp |

Seven Reasons Why Practicing Law Might Be More Stressful Than Spending 18 Months in a POW Camp


Print/Download PDF

Font Size

Last Updated: Oct 12, 2022

Rate this article

1234 Reviews Average: 3.9 out of 5

  • Practicing law can take a lot out of you.
  • It is a frantic and excessively stressful business.
  • This is why practicing has often been compared to war-related scenarios including being held in a POW camp

Summary: If you are going to practice law, you need to be prepared for excessive stress. Practicing in a firm requires a certain type of person to be successful.
Why do attorneys say practicing law is so stressful? Here's why.

In this article, you will learn why practicing can be extremely stressful and why so many talented attorneys in big firms end up being miserable and looking for a way out. You will also learn that it takes a special kind of person to thrive in such environments and that one has to find his own niche to succeed and be happy as a lawyer or in any other profession.

After a long day at the office talking to attorneys who did not seem the least bit excited about practicing, I had a refreshing phone call with a woman practicing overseas. The woman is an American but has never practiced with a US law firm. She is the only American attorney in her firm.
A. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes
During our conversation, she seemed quite simply to be the happiest attorney I had ever spoken with. She made jokes, laughed, and talked about how much she enjoyed being an attorney. She had even attached a funny image to her Skype handle.

"The weather is so nice here today!" she gushed. "I cannot wait to go outside for lunch and take in some sunshine! It is also my secretary's anniversary here today! I ordered her flowers. She is going to be so excited!"

I have been a legal recruiter for most of my career. Did this woman know what was going on and how tough being an attorney really was? Had she discovered some unknown antidepressant that was making her immune to the horrors of practicing law?

I was not even sure I was talking to an attorney. I thought the conversation and the entire thing might be a joke. Was a prank being played on me by a radio show? I found myself sitting up in my chair and becoming very serious: "What was wrong here?"

As a legal recruiter, I spend my days talking to attorneys. What I have noticed is that almost no lawyers are happy at least no lawyers working for big prestigious law firms in the United States.

The situation is so dire that I personally know two lawyers who committed suicide and three lawyers who died from heart attacks, two in their early 40s. (See Another Big Law Attorney I Know Just Died Young for more information.) One attorney was dead for over a week in his bathroom and had blown up like a giant balloon before the firm he worked for even noticed he was gone. His anonymous life working in an office in a large skyscraper meant that no one noticed he was gone until the timesheets stopped being entered into the system.

Two other attorneys I worked DIRECTLY with are now facing prison, one for murdering his wife and another for committing a massive financial crime. (See Local Attorney Back in Court for Allegedly Killing His Wife on a Cruise and Two Indicted in $275 Million Investment Fraud Scheme Involving the Sale of Medical Accounts Receivable to Hedge Funds and Other Investors for more information.) Another attorney I worked DIRECTLY with was charged with attempted murder for stabbing his girlfriend repeatedly with a bread knife. (Thankfully, she lived.) (See Accused of knife attack on woman, Secaucus attorney arrested for more information.) I have lived and worked in the inner city of Detroit around some pretty bad people when I was a contractor (a former life) and never met murderers or people capable of such heinous crimes. It took putting on a suit and working in a competitive firm to meet people like this.
In one heartbreaking case, I helped place a highly talented young lawyer from an Ivy League school at one of Los Angeles' most prestigious firms. Almost immediately upon traversing that firm's hallowed doors, her connection with the outside world was severed. When she emerged months later her work-life balance had deteriorated. She was in the midst of a divorce and her car was being repossessed. She was addicted to crystal meth and dating a member of a Latin gang.

"I have not talked to her in weeks," her husband lamented. "She was working these crazy hours at the firm and someone at the office introduced her to crystal meth. Then she started working about 96 hours at a stretch and sleeping for 24 hours. Now she has got this boyfriend and is giving him all her money and she has even sold her wedding ring. I do not know what to do."

When I finally managed a meeting with the once-promising and now unemployed lawyer, she explained: "This job has destroyed me. I never imagined how difficult working in a firm would be. I was raped when I was younger, and the trauma from working in a firm was worse than that."

As a legal recruiter, I have often pondered the reason for such grave discontent among so many of our "best and brightest" legal talents. Why do so many lawyers find practicing to be so horrible? How can the legal profession mess people up so badly?

I recently had the occasion to talk with an attorney who had served in combat and spent 18 months in a POW camp where he was tortured. He was now a practicing lawyer and looking for another job.

"The pressure here is just too much," he said about his current job. "I was hospitalized for a few weeks at the beginning of this year. I just cannot handle it here anymore. I was chewing my nails so much that my fingertips were bleeding all the time. I got home from work one day and my wife showed me the pillow I had slept on the night before: It was covered in blood. She told me I need help."

"Why is the work so stressful?" I asked.

"I am only given a certain amount of time to work on each patent, and if I do not finish each patent in the time allotted, I do not get credit for my time. It is nonsensical. No one can complete the patents in the time allotted. I worked 2,600 hours last year but only got credit for 1,800. I did not get a bonus."

"I just do not understand how people do it. The people I am working with are competitive with each other and not my friends. The attorneys I work for are demanding and unpleasant. I bought a small condominium and have a family I need to support, but it always looks like I could lose my job at any second, and if I do, I know it will not be easy. The examiners in the patent office are rude to me. I do not even get to talk to or interact with clients. I am just expected to sit in a small office all day and night with a bunch of people who are rude to me and do not appreciate anything I do. Then I come home at night and my wife is upset I am not home earlier or seeing my kids grow up."

"It sounds worse than being a POW," I told him.

"At least there you can look forward to being rescued and a better life. At least there you are locked up with people who are your friends. At least there you know who your enemies are. Even some of the guards were nicer than the people in this firm. At least there you do not have to look forward to your wife divorcing you because she never sees you."

As I reflected upon this sad conversation and on countless similar conversations I have had with disillusioned, end-of-their-rope lawyers, I realized that in at least seven ways practicing might be more stressful for some attorneys than being in combat or spending time in a POW camp.

1) You Have Nothing To Look Forward To

A very common thing I have seen throughout my career is attorneys working ridiculous hours for 10 or more years and then losing their jobs. BOOM. Only billed 2,900 hours and not 3,400 hours last year? See you later! In most large law firms, it is exceedingly rare for any of the people who join the firm out of school to ever advance. Most will leave, take a hint and leave or simply be told to leave. The reward for the massive sacrifice of the best years of your life is often just not there. Associates see people losing their jobs and they get very depressed about the fate that awaits them.

When I was practicing, I started to see all sorts of partners and others losing their jobs. This was sad to me and made very little sense. I started on a hallway with around seven or eight partners, and I remember one year later only two were left. It was a frightening place to be.

They had all been asked to leave. One partner I was working with was "de-equitized" and left to become a judge. It is a hard career when there is not much to look forward to.

What is there to look forward to? If you are really, really good at your job, you might make more money. If you make more money, you can buy more stuff. If you get a better title, you will have more respect. But how important is this stuff? You will still have to work incredible hours, may never see your family, and will deal with all sorts of unpleasant excessive stress and issues. Several attorneys look around them and realize there is nothing to look forward to.

Even worse, the more senior an attorney gets the less marketable he or she becomes. If an attorney has more than five or so years of experience, firms start "clamming up" and want nothing to do with him. Their billing rate becomes too high and partners would prefer to do the work themselves instead of assigning it to an associate. It is not a good situation.
There are very few other professions where the shelf life is just a few years, and then you are used up and expected to find something else to do.

At least in a POW camp or war zone, you can certainly look forward to everything ending and getting better. You cannot look forward to this in a firm.

2) No One Is Your Friend

Your co-workers are your competitors and, generally, they are interested in seeing you fail because that means they will advance. If you share something personal with someone in your firm, the odds are very good it will be used against you later. You are in a competitive environment. Make "friends" at your own risk.

If you are a litigator, for example, you face a whole host of enemies:
  • The Client: They are looking for you to slip up. They expect you to win more than you lose. They may be angry about the money they are spending and other things.
  • The Other Associates: They are competing with you for the best assignments, trying to look better than you, undermining you.
  • The Partners You Are Working For: They have all sorts of demands and are constantly evaluating you and watching over you very closely. They too are looking for you to screw up, for something to happen. Many of these partners may never appreciate anything you do or thank you for it at all.
  • The Court: The Court is generally not your friend. They will yell at attorneys, sanction attorneys, and are always going to be in a situation where they pick one side over another.
  • The Opposing Counsel: They are out to destroy you and see you slip up as well. They are always out to get you. There is no question about it.

The cast of characters out to get the average attorney is nothing short of astonishing. Literally, no one is on the attorney's side. Threats are everywhere.
At least the POW, or soldier, is working with comrades who are trying to save his life. In a firm, the perception many attorneys have is that everyone is out to destroy them.

3) You Are An Easily Replaceable Commodity

A law firm can generally replace an associate within 24 hours. If the firm needs work done at the partner level and need partners without business, they can generally find someone in about 1 to 2 hours and could probably find someone in the middle of the night, too.

"Hi, sorry to call you in the middle of the night. I know it is 3 a.m., but we have an opening for a litigator with 10 years of experience."

"Great. I will be there by 9 tomorrow morning! I just need to stop by my old job, pick up some pictures from my office, and tell them I am leaving. Thank you for the opportunity!"

Attorneys are not very hard to replace. I have never seen any firm have an opening for more than a few months. It does not matter where the opening is. Attorneys will move to Alaska, Russia, small islands in the middle of the Pacific … it does not matter. I have even worked with firms in Afghanistan. There are attorneys for everyone! Every firm gets an attorney who wants one.

In markets such as New York, there are so many attorneys clawing around that the firms become ridiculously demanding:

"We are looking for an attorney from either Skadden, Wachtel, or Sullivan & Cromwell with between 18 and 25 months of experience doing corporate finance on behalf of large, institutional private equity firms."

BOOM! Within 45 minutes the firm starts receiving resumes. Twenty-four hours later, the firm receives the resumes from 10 of the 30 eligible attorneys matching those qualifications, all working at the target firms with top qualifications.

I know an attorney who had worked in a small firm for several years who asked for a raise. The attorney was told, "probably at the beginning of next year." The attorney responded, "That is fine, but would you mind putting that in writing and sending me an email or something?"

The attorney's boss looked down for a few seconds and then said:

"I will tell you what I am going to do. I am going to send you down the hall to accounting and have them give you a final check. Then I am going to have IT remove you from the website. Then I am going to call one of the hundreds of resumes I have and get someone else to start here right away."

The attorney looked on the website a few days later and his replacement had already been hired.

If you are a POW, you are not easily replaced. You are protected because you are very valuable to your captors! If you are in a war, you are doing something valuable, serving your country. You will probably even get a medal! Not so in a firm!

4) Death Is Slow And Not Instantaneous

In a firm, you are generally just working there until you lose your job. You know you are likely to lose it at some point. You just do not know when. This is a real mind screw and not something any attorney enjoys. At least in most jobs, you have a good idea of whether you have a future.

I know people who make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year selling cars in dealerships. I also know people who make millions selling stocks and bonds to people. In each of these jobs, people can leave and go anywhere they want any time they want. They have a skill that is valued in the market, and it is almost impossible to lose a job there.

I was in a Cadillac dealership a few months ago looking at trucks. The salesman was in his late 80s and kept wiping drool from his face with a handkerchief. He had worked at auto dealerships since the 1940s and has tons of people who return to see him and buy cars each year. There are some jobs where you can just keep doing them and get better and better. In other jobs, you are sure to end up unemployed.

It would be hard to overstate the crisis and pain that attorneys experience after spending three years going to law school and then ten years doing good work and working hard inside of a firm only to be told they need to leave. Then these same attorneys are unemployed and no one is interested in them any longer. They feel their lives have been wasted and the stress, physical symptoms, and mental challenges they experience and sense of worthlessness are profound.

In many cases, these people have wives or husbands and families and it all comes crashing down when their careers stop like this. It is savage, unpleasant, and very, very sad. I feel very sorry for these people, and I speak to them each day. They come to a point where they have been used for all they can give and then are no longer valued. This creates tremendous pain and is difficult for people to handle.

If you are in a war or a POW, the odds are pretty good that if you die, someone has shot you or cut off your head, and you died instantly. In a firm, you never know when you are going to lose your job.

5) There Is Very Little Positive Feedback In Law Firms

Law firms will generally give pretty harsh reviews to junior associates to get them to improve. They will then start giving them very good reviews when they are profitable to the firm (between two and five years), and then, all of a sudden, the reviews will become negative again. This "roller coaster" is par for the course. You are hit, then someone is nice to you, then you are hit again. This is how it works and has always worked, and there is nothing pleasant about it. No wonder people die or go crazy.

I worked in the Los Angeles office of a New York law firm when I was a third-year associate. The reviews used to be done by partners who traveled from New York to conduct the reviews of the Los Angeles associates. They were partners no one in the LA office knew. One day, two of these New York partners I had never seen in my life showed up in my office and started giving me a horrible review. I had no idea what was going on. They were telling me no one liked me, that I should start looking for a new job, and that no one had confidence in me.

Then they mentioned a partner I had never worked with and said: "We are not even going to talk about what happened with him."

"What are you talking about?" I said. "I have never worked with him."

They looked at each other and started conferring.

"Actually, we were giving you someone else's review. We need to find your evaluations and we will be back."

I never saw them again. It was a strange, odd experience. No one ever apologized or said they were sorry. I practically had a heart attack during the review. I am pretty sure I knew who the review was for, however, and it was someone very good at his job in my opinion. After that review, I thought to myself: "If this is what is going to be waiting for me after six more years here, that is not a good situation."

In a war zone, you are surrounded by comrades and others who have your back and want you to survive. If you are a POW, people are trying to rescue you. Not so in a firm. You are in an environment that may eventually try and expel you like a virus.

 6) Your Career Could End At Any Second

All the people in litigation departments often lose their jobs when a few major cases settle. When the corporate market slows down, and it always does, corporate attorneys lose their jobs in droves. A mistake an attorney made years ago could suddenly come back to haunt him in a malpractice lawsuit and his career could suddenly be over.

There are all sorts of threats to an attorney's career inside of an incredibly stressful firm. Even a simple mistake an attorney makes can end his career.

One attorney I know was going to be made a partner in a major American law firm. I know because a partner I was working with told me that the firm had already agreed to elect him to be a partner in a few weeks. He had been working 2,500+ hours a year for several years in the firm and was doing good work. One day he got to work and was asked by a partner if he had sent a simple letter that had little consequence to an opposing counsel in a case he was working on.

"Yes, I did last night," he said.

When he got back to his office, he realized that he had written the letter but had forgotten to email it. He had been in the office past midnight the day before and had been working crazy hours for weeks and was just out of it.

He emailed it immediately. Opposing counsel responded to the email and cc'd the partner he had told he had done it the night before. The attorney was immediately fired—BOOM—just like that. Not only that, but the firm blackballed him and said terrible things to anyone who wanted to check his references. They said he was a "liar" and "untrustworthy" and a "major disappointment."

He was so tainted he could not get a job in the entire state of California and ended up leaving the state and returning to a small town his parents lived in on the East Coast. He was days from becoming an equity partner and lost it all due to one simple mistake.

If you are in a war zone and make a mistake, you will generally not lose your job. You may get a mark on your record or a lecture, but your job is not continually under threat. Soldiers do not lose their jobs when the market slows down or they forget to do something simple.

7) You Do Not Have Any Control Over Your Time

If you are a lawyer in a large firm, you can forget having any control over your time. Your work-life balance is out the window. The firm simply owns you and that is it. Weekends, evenings, and so forth are not something you can plan on. You are expected to drop everything and start work at a moment's notice when you called on.

When I was practicing, one time I came into work on a Thursday morning and did not return from the office until Sunday at 6 a.m. I emailed the project I was working on to a partner at 6 a.m. on Easter Sunday and went home. It took me a few hours to get to sleep because I was so charged up after working for 72 hours straight. I finally got to sleep around 8 a.m. and, at 8:30 a.m., my phone rang. It was the partner I was working for. I did not hear the phone ring. I had gone into such a deep sleep that my wife had to physically shake me to wake me up.

"I did not receive the memo yet," the partner said. She was calling from the car on the way to Easter Sunday services.

"I emailed it to you a few hours ago," I said.

She demanded I go into the office and resend it again. I was so pissed that when I got off the phone, I slammed my arm into a wall so hard I did some nerve damage. With one arm operational, I drove into the office. When I got to the office, I checked and it was in my outbox. I sent it again and called the IT people in our New York office.

"Oh, that makes sense. We reboot our servers every Sunday night and emails do not go out during that time for a few hours."

Despite this, the partner was still upset with me. There were no apologies for this. “You worked 72 hours straight? I do not care! I want that memo when I get out of the church! Have a nice Easter!”

When I started my first legal job, I remember taking a one-week vacation one summer. Before I left, a partner I had never worked with called me on the phone at home the night before I was leaving for vacation:

"I just wanted to let you know that we all hope you have a nice vacation."

The message was clear. I should not be taking a vacation. Attorneys rarely take vacations and have little control over their time.

In the military, there is something called "R&R." Between battles and other services, soldiers get time off. If you are being tortured, you at least get to rest when your captors sleep. Not so in a law firm. There is very little control (if any) over your time.


What is the meaning of all of this? If practicing is so stressful and difficult, what is the point?

The point is that this life is for some people. Certain people are very good at it and thrive under this sort of pressure: In fact, it makes them happy. There are certain people who are ready-made to be warriors and assassins and fight in wars. Others have the skill and fortitude to be attorneys.
If you are going to do this, you need to love it, commit to it, and thrive under these conditions. The point is some people are meant to do this and thrive on the challenge, the fight, and the ups and downs. Some people come out of this and win. Those, of course, are the type of people I make my living looking for. It also is why it is difficult to be exceptional at legal recruiting because it is not easy to find an attorney who is truly cut out to excel at a large law firm.

You may also be wondering if I have a negative view of the legal profession based on what I have seen and even been through myself. If anything, seeing what people go through to get into this profession and remain in it makes me respect those in it even more. I have committed my life to help attorneys and view what I do as profoundly important and satisfying work. I may not be helping former POWs, of course, but I am helping people who are warriors and deserve my highest levels of respect and dedication. Incredibly, I work as hard now as when I was practicing and am more motivated than I have ever been because I am helping people I believe truly deserve help

What happened to the girl who was addicted to crystal meth? She is a successful attorney in a smaller firm now and has been for years. She works with people who have—like her—had issues with selling drugs, substance abuse, crime, and other things. There is a place for everyone in the legal profession—you just need to find it. Everyone finds what they are looking for once they realize they need a change.

See the following articles for more information:
Frequently Asked Questions

Why Is Being A Lawyer So Stressful?

Attorneys are constantly under stress. As well as helping clients through important or difficult legal matters, they must also stay abreast of the ever-changing industry, and manage stress and heavy workloads. The following are a few reasons why being a lawyer is so stressful: 
Contacting Clients

No matter what, managing challenging client personalities while bearing the emotional burden of your clients' situations can be incredibly challenging. Stress can affect you as a lawyer if your client is going through a divorce. 

Also, it is not uncommon for clients to vent their frustrations and stress toward their attorneys. Having to deal with this can be emotionally and mentally draining for lawyers. 
Concerning Difficult Matters

The stakes are high when practicing. Attorneys should be professional in sensitive situations, such as assault cases or murder cases, where they may be confronted with emotional or disturbing situations. Being around traumatized or stressed people or working with them can be stressful and draining for lawyers. It could lead to mental health issues and disruption to the personal life of stressed-out lawyers.
Working Long Hours

Lawyers work long hours. That is not a stereotype. In addition to working normal hours, several lawyers prepare court documents, communicate with clients, and work on nonbillable tasks outside the normal workday. 

75% of lawyers work outside of regular business hours according to the 2018 Legal Trends Report. In addition, the report tells us that the average full-time lawyer works 49.6 hours a week and logs 140 hours of unplanned overtime. In a year, that is 3.5 weeks' worth of extra, unplanned work. As a result of long hours and unplanned days, most lawyers are under a great deal of stress.
Laws Change Constantly

Law school graduation is not the end of an attorney's education. Ongoing lawyer training is important for lawyers - they need to stay on top of constantly changing rules and regulations in the law as well as important fields like cybercrime and data security.
Debt From Law Schools

Everyone experiences financial stress from time to time. Law school is extremely expensive-student debt is a common problem for law students who have just become law school graduates. According to a survey conducted by the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division in 2020, the average student debt of participating attorneys (with a median age of 32) is $160,000. Additionally, over 75% of participating attorneys had student loan debt of at least $100,000 when they graduated. 

At first, starting a legal career with a lot of debt can seem insurmountable when you graduate and must begin paying it back. Thus, most lawyers are starting their practice with financial burdens on their shoulders.

Why Are Lawyers So Unhappy?

These 6 reasons explain why lawyers are unhappy at their profession:
1. The Work

It is now the norm to be available anywhere, anytime to most attorneys since they work six days per week, generally fifty hours per week. These hours may increase substantially and days off can be elusive during extreme times (a trial, a deal closing, etc.). The bottom line is that not everyone is cut out for such commitments. In addition, there is the joy of the billable hour. If you are not consistently working and documenting the time in six-minute increments, you are not getting paid, and the slow periods may result in you losing your job. The fact that many lawyers are burnt out is not surprising either.
2. Legal Relationships Between Attorneys And Clients

Lawyers are responsible for finding solutions to people's problems. The pursuit is intellectually challenging, but it is also stressful. Personal relationships with some clients can be difficult.  The expectations of some clients of what can be accomplished within the law are (grossly) unrealistic. Problems often arise at the last minute, forcing a mad dash to meet deadlines. Problems for some clients can only be managed, not fixed. When they receive good results, some clients are unappreciative. Even when staffing is efficient and cases are run effectively, many people are not happy with the costs.  Occasionally, clients will try to skip out on bills.
3.  Litigation And Criminal Law Are Adversarial In Most Cases

Most lawyers are constantly at odds with their opponents since their adversaries have the same interest as they do in winning their cases. Some people love this, while others find it incredibly stressful.
 4. Attorneys Do A Lot Of Boring Work On A Day-to-Day Basis 

Many law students think that attorneys will work like the lawyers they see on TV (mostly in court, daily trials, dealing with power brokers, etc.). In practice, the situation differs greatly. It consists of reading, researching, writing, reviewing documents, and sometimes contacting clients. Some lawyers do nothing but work, but at any rate, the ratio of work to "actions" is high.
5. Lawyers Do Not Make A Lot Of Money

Increasing school costs and resulting student loan debt are straining many lawyers these days. It is not uncommon for a lawyer who makes millions of dollars a year to represent clients who are vastly more wealthy than he or she is, and legal professionals at the top are usually the ones who work the longest hours. Moreover, lawyers are not respected by the general public. The majority of lawyers enter the profession to gain respect from others, unaware that the vast majority of people would be happy to never have to deal with lawyers.
6. In Fact, A Very High Percentage Of People In The Law Are Not Cut Out For The Practice And Never Will Be

Sadly, many lawyers go to school not out of a genuine desire to become lawyers, but because they want "wealth" or "prestige" or "respect" or for no other reason than they could not think of anything better to do. However, law schools offer the worst of both worlds. People who are looking for a path to upper-middle-class success and stability may find it attractive because it has lower entry barriers than medicine. On the other hand, the law has a much higher exit cost than consulting or banking, so should someone decide they are not right for the job, they will be in a difficult spot. 

Three years of postgraduate study is required for a law degree (J.D. ), which is significant, but not exhausting. Therefore, the school attracts a lot of young people who are not sure what they want to do with their lives but know they have to do something. In other words, many people make the decision to go to law school - which often involves taking out one hundred thousand dollars or more in student loans - based on what they hope to achieve. The truth is that a great many of them may not actively want to be lawyers. 

Being a lawyer can certainly be tough at times (it is still a well-paying office job), but there is no profession where so many highly qualified employees are in inappropriate combination with the duties they are asked to perform, and it is this mismatch that breeds unhappiness.

What Is The Stress Level Of A Lawyer?

"My mental health and physical health will suffer if I practice law any longer," a lawyer from the Leave Law Behind community says when he is burned out.

The groundbreaking study of 16,000 attorneys across 19 states by the American Bar Association and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation showed that 19 percent of the attorneys surveyed suffer from anxiety, 21 percent were problem drinkers, and 28 percent lawyers suffer from depression.

A lawyer who is unhappy experiences even more pain. Having the job description of an attorney demands more of the lawyer than he or she can reasonably provide puts lawyers at high risk for burnout. This gap creates the unique attorney burnout and lawyer anxiety you are all too familiar with.

What Are The Stress Management Tips For Lawyers?

In law practice, it is not all stress. By taking mental breaks throughout the day, you will be able to minimize stress and other mental health challenges. This does mean taking some non-billable time off. The following are simple tips to help you avoid burnout and stressful situations.

Aside from helping you lose weight, exercise is a good stress-relieving activity. Physical activity moderately to vigorously can improve your cognitive function, improve sleep, decrease stress, relax muscle tension, and more. These are great benefits, but you need to stay committed to them to reap their benefits. To avoid getting bored, choose exercises you enjoy and do them in a variety of ways. 

If you are a busy lawyer, you can walk the dog or run for a few minutes before you start your day. You can walk outside or perform simple exercises that can be done on the go if you are not a morning person.

You know how it feels. You hear your favorite song, you feel energized, and your mood is instantly lifted. During their workday, lawyers may experience this same feeling and may even enhance their productivity. It can be particularly distracting when doing mundane or repetitive tasks. Different people respond differently to music, so it is important to choose music that is not too distracting.
Take More Breaks

Lawyers, you need to take more breaks. Brain fog, fatigue, emotional toll, and forgetfulness are all signs of being overworked. Working under these conditions can make it nearly impossible to meet client expectations or reach your goals. There is a greater chance of you making mistakes that you will need to fix later. It will be more difficult to justify a significant decrease in your productivity or quality of work when reviewing your billing.

The breaks may be as simple as walking for a few minutes or checking your phone for non-work-related issues. Even taking a short break from work will benefit your work ethic and stress levels.

Sleep is equally important as taking breaks. A lawyer's typical working schedule involves extensive hours and little sleep. In addition to causing unsatisfactory work productivity, poor image, and physical consequences, it is also harmful to your health. 

Setting boundaries in the course of their work is crucial for lawyers. Establishing reasonable work hours while ensuring ample time for rest is essential for achieving this goal. Client needs and workload can affect when you stop working, but it is important to make working late the exception rather than the rule. 

The recommended amount of sleep for stressing lawyers should be 7 hours per night. A healthy adult needs this much sleep for cognitive function and overall well-being. Disconnect from technology before going to bed. Lighting, calming aromas, and a restful bedtime routine are great ways to assist you in getting a good night's sleep.

About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.

With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.

Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.

Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.

One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog,, and, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.

One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.

Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.

In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.

Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.

In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.

About BCG Attorney Search

BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit

Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays

You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts

You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives

Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

AGREE/DISAGREE? SHARE COMMENTS ANONYMOUSLY! We Want to Hear Your Thoughts! Tell Us What You Think!!

Related Articles

We've changed thousands of lives over the past 20 years, and yours could be next.

When you use BCG Attorney Search you will get an unfair advantage because you will use the best legal placement company in the world for finding permanent law firm positions.