Highlight: Realistic expectations can help lawyers manage stress

Stress shouldn't be a badge of honour indicating one's productivity and work ethic

Highlight: Realistic expectations can help lawyers manage stress

“One of the most effective ways we can reduce psychological and workplace distress is by finding a better balance between encouraging high performance and having realistic expectations about workload and outcomes,” ex-NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley told the NSW Law Society.

Stress is part of every profession, but lawyers in particular are hit hard because they are so often defined by their strict attention to detail, perfectionism and work ethic. Many lawyers also choose to treat stress as a badge of honour that speaks to their productivity and work ethic.

The transition to remote work has also contributed to heightened stress, with the elimination of a physical divide between work and home life. Many lawyers are driven to work beyond their usual hours, especially when clients communicate outside of those hours. Moreover, the difficulty of concentrating in the face of distractions at home can aggravate feelings of stress.

The NSW Law Society pointed out that while stress is a strong motivator, there is an optimal level to aspire to.

“Psychologists refer to the Yerkes-Dodson law, which suggests a bell curve-like relationship exists between stress and performance. Both too much stress and too little stress negatively impact overall performance and wellbeing,” the Law Society explained.

Thus, setting realistic expectations of lawyers can help reduce stress levels within the profession. The Law Society also suggested that lawyers adopt coping strategies centred on their professional, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing in order to battle stress.

“Lawyers typically do a great job consuming ourselves with our clients’ issues and the next deadline, but we often forget to take a minute and look after ourselves and our peers,” Chamberlains legal director Alison McNamara told Australasian Lawyer.

“One of the most effective ways we can reduce psychological and workplace distress is by finding a better balance between encouraging high performance and having realistic expectations about workload and outcomes,” ex-NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley told the NSW Law Society.

Stress is part of every profession, but lawyers in particular are hit hard because they are so often defined by their strict attention to detail, perfectionism and work ethic. Many lawyers also choose to treat stress as a badge of honour that speaks to their productivity and work ethic.

The transition to remote work has also contributed to heightened stress, with the elimination of a physical divide between work and home life. Many lawyers are driven to work beyond their usual hours, especially when clients communicate outside of those hours. Moreover, the difficulty of concentrating in the face of distractions at home can aggravate feelings of stress.

The NSW Law Society pointed out that while stress is a strong motivator, there is an optimal level to aspire to.

“Psychologists refer to the Yerkes-Dodson law, which suggests a bell curve-like relationship exists between stress and performance. Both too much stress and too little stress negatively impact overall performance and wellbeing,” the Law Society explained.

Thus, setting realistic expectations of lawyers can help reduce stress levels within the profession. The Law Society also suggested that lawyers adopt coping strategies centred on their professional, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing in order to battle stress.

“Lawyers typically do a great job consuming ourselves with our clients’ issues and the next deadline, but we often forget to take a minute and look after ourselves and our peers,” Chamberlains legal director Alison McNamara told Australasian Lawyer.

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