Findings showed that "severely negative" results can come from even moderate exhaustion
The COVID-19 pandemic has left 54% of US-based corporate lawyers exhausted to some degree, a survey conducted by Gartner has revealed.
A total of 34% of respondents described themselves as “moderately exhausted,” while 20% said they were “highly exhausted.” Of the highly exhausted group, 68% were looking to quit their current organisation; 61% were often delaying, scaling down or outright ending projects they were involved in; and 41% experienced psychological distress.
“The fact that many corporate lawyers are exhausted is probably not that surprising to legal leaders after the pressures of the pandemic. But what stands out is the degree to which even moderate levels of exhaustion lead to severely negative outcomes for the individuals themselves, the legal department and the overall business,” said James Crocker, senior principal of research in Gartner’s legal and compliance practice.
Of the 34% who scored as moderately exhausted, 34% frequently dragged out or killed their projects, 28% displayed signs of psychological distress and 18% were planning to leave their organisation.
“The fact that more than two thirds of highly exhausted lawyers are looking to leave the company, and the extent to which even moderate exhaustion is associated with quantifiable psychological distress among corporate lawyers should be a cause for concern for legal leaders,” Crocker said. “The negative impacts of lawyer exhaustion can spiral because lawyers leaving, or working inefficiently, simply increases the workload on the department. Legal leaders need a way to nip exhaustion in the bud, but common approaches to this have a limited effect.”
Gartner revealed that common approaches such as freeing up capacity and reallocating work away from visibly burnt out individuals resulted in only a 16% drop in the number of exhausted lawyers. Thus, Crocker said that legal leaders should also consider the “meaningful connection between engagement and exhaustion.”
“Highly engaged lawyers are dramatically less likely to be exhausted than even moderately engaged lawyers, and just 4% of lawyers were both high exhausted and highly engaged,” he explained.
Gartner pointed out that highly engaged lawyers were 70% more likely to look into new ways of helping business partner to accomplish goals. Moreover, they were 30% more likely to identify ways to boost department processes.
High engagement also meant that corporate lawyers were 143% more likely to display discretionary effort and to remain in their position than if they were only moderately engaged.
“The things that really made the most impact on engagement were firstly, personally fulfilling work and secondly, total rewards,” Crocker said.
Gartner highlighted the fact that 43% of respondents were “on the cusp of being highly engaged” in their work, indicating that incremental improvements could make a sizable difference.
The US research and advisory firm conducted the survey in July with a total of 202 respondents who are corporate lawyers.