Attorneys face a great deal of stress in their profession. The intimidating courtroom environment, the severity of the judge and jury and the total dependence a client has on an attorney can be very weighty things for an attorney to grapple with. Attorneys, while brilliant legal minds, are still human and susceptible to the same mental and emotional hardships as anyone else. Some attorneys are of strong mind and character, and they teach themselves to cope with professional stress in a healthy manner. Others are sensitive, fragile or simply not of strong enough mind, and they turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms to get by.
When attorneys cope with their professional stress in a healthy manner, they come out on top of their stress and conquer it. Any attorney can certainly find ways of coping in a healthy way so that they are able to strengthen their character and their professional abilities. Since attorneys are high functioning individuals, they are at their best coping abilities when they find a stress release that suits their high functioning ways of thinking. This may include a physical activity, such as bicycling, kayaking or endurance running, or it may include an intellectual activity, such as chess playing, creative writing or reading.
Attorneys who cope with stress in unhealthy ways, however, are ensuring their own path of self destruction. Stress and responsibilities only mount over time in a legal profession and those who do not learn to cope in a healthy manner will crumble beneath the weight of their own unhealthy habits. Unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as isolation, drinking, emotionally acting out, doing drugs, having anonymous sex or any other destructive tendency can leave an attorney jobless, unwell, alone and unable to care for themselves. This type of behavior cannot sustain any serious working professional and warrants the services of a counselor, rehab center or other mental health professional.
The position of attorney is a career aspiration of many young people studying law. A position as an attorney is one of high reward. The career respect is significant and the income ranges from moderate to lofty. There is a great deal of fascination surrounding attorneys. However, being a professional attorney does not come without a down side. The stress and pressure placed on attorneys to perform can be very heavy. Clients of attorneys typically have a great deal at stake in the case they hired an attorney to represent them in. This means their expectations of their attorney are incredibly high. Some attorneys are not phased by this pressure while others are rattled to their core because of it.
Many young attorneys start out very optimistic in their career path, full of ideals to uphold the law and practice it diligently. However, it is only a matter of time before they confront the intense challenges of the courtroom, as well as their first few losses. Facing an attorney who outperforms them can either be educational or unnerving. Part of being an attorney is rising above the losses and defeats, learning how to better navigate the courtroom and learning from mistakes. Some burgeoning legal professionals meet this challenge head on while others become crushed by it.
The stress begins to build when a lost case or a series of lost cases work their way under an attorney’s skin. Their confidence in their abilities may begin to fracture at that point and they are likely to develop courtroom performance anxiety. This can be highly detrimental to an attorney’s career if they cannot reason their way out of it. Strong personalities use these experiences to become even stronger, but more sensitive personalities may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms in order to deal with the stress they are experiencing. Unfortunately, drug and alcohol problems frequently make their way into the lives of stressed out attorneys.
Attorneys and lawyers face some of the most grueling preparation there is for their career endeavors. Attorneys go to school for a considerably long time in order to prepare for time in the courtroom. They are also required to work their way up the career ladder very gradually under the supervision of mentors and senior attorneys in their practice. Attorneys must be very devoted to their career path in order to get through the arduous training their career requires.
An attorney needs to complete a masters degree if they hope to practice law. If they do not, a position such as a paralegal is as much as they can hope to achieve. Once they finish their masters degree, they need to then pass the bar exam for the jurisdiction they hope to practice law in. The bar exam is known to be one of the most difficult tests that a professional is required to take.
Once the bar exam is passed, which frequently takes more than one try, a novice attorney who does not have any actual courtroom experience must learn under a mentor. A novice attorney takes a job either in a private or a public practice. Novice attorneys do not have the option of starting their own practice because they have no professional experience. Whatever firm or law office takes them on does so with the knowledge that they will be wet behind the ears at first.
After working under the guidance of more senior attorneys for a certain amount of time, an attorney establishes a reputation for themselves and begins to build a clientele base and a name for themselves. This is where their careers begin to build significantly. The more time they have in the courtroom, the better equipped they become at taking on more and more challenging cases.
Eventually, an attorney will work their way up to becoming a senior partner within their firm or a senior attorney in their law office. This is the height of their career, when they are well respected and admired, and begin to mentor and groom younger attorneys.
Attorneys face a number of highly stressful situations in their line of work. Client’s entire lives can be at stake and hanging in the balance of their trial’s outcome. They rely heavily on their attorney to protect them, which puts immense expectations on their attorney’s shoulders. Not all of these types of cases can be won. Every attorney has to make peace with the fact that they will lose a case here and there, or that they will make a costly mistake from time to time. If they buckle beneath the stress and pressure, it will begin to show in their lives in the following ways:
Relationships. An attorney’s personal relationships can become strained because of the attorney’s career stress. When the pressure amounts at work, a professional attorney has the tendency to pull away from their family and friends and become engulfed in their professional stress. This is an unhealthy tendency as relationship connections are one of the necessary methods of relieving stress.
Work performance. An attorney’s work performance will also be affected by their stress levels. Stress causes high amounts of cortisol to be released into a person’s system, which breaks their focus and makes them rattled and anxious. This distracts an attorney from their professional goals and obligations of properly representing their clients.
Physical health. A toll is taken on an attorney’s physical health when they are under a great deal of stress. This is an inevitable effect of stress. Anyone stuck in a prolonged state of stress will feel the physical effects of it. They will get sick more frequently. Their weight is likely to destabilize. Their sleep will become irregular. Courtroom stress can even take years of an attorney’s life.
Addiction and disorders. An attorney’s mental health is also in jeopardy due to stress. Addiction and mental disorders are often caused or aggravated by heavy professional stress. Many stressed out attorneys turn to drugs and alcohol, or some other addictive substance or process, to relieve stress. Others just reel with the symptoms of depression, anxiety, bipolar or some other mental disorder. Often times, they end up requiring the services of an alcohol rehab center, a drug detox clinic or a sober living facility.