The secrets to success that most attorneys miss.

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Chronic stress, substance abuse, and depression are common career pitfalls for attorneys.  These can lead to burnout and malpractice, damaging an attorney’s health and career.

I’ve been a lawyer since 2005, and I’m still surprised by how many attorneys shrug their shoulders in defeat and accept this a matter of course.

“That’s just how it is. What can you do?”

Really, counselor?

If you were your client, would you accept that answer?

Here are two secrets to success that most attorneys miss:  value your own wellbeing, and select a team to help you perform at a high level over time.

1.  Value your own wellbeing.   

Taking care of yourself is not a luxury.  Failure to attend to your physical and emotional health can effect your competence, putting you at risk for malpractice.  You need to be sharp, thorough, and exercise sound judgment.  How can you think clearly and use good judgment if your health — or your marriage — is falling apart?  Your brain works better when your body and your relationships are in good shape.

California even has a specific Rule of Professional Conduct that speaks to this.  Rule 3-110 says:

(A) A member shall not intentionally, recklessly, or repeatedly fail to perform legal services with competence.

(B) For purposes of this rule, “competence” in any legal service shall mean to apply the 1) diligence, 2) learning and skill, and 3) mental, emotional, and physical ability reasonably necessary for the performance of such service.

(Emphasis mine.)

While it might be necessary to burn the candle at both ends from time to time, it’s short-sighted to ignore your physical and emotional health.

2. Get a good team around you.

In order to perform at a high level over time, you need a team around you.  This goes beyond your paralegal and admin staff.  Think about it.  Why do professional athletes have coaches, nutritionists, physical therapists, and sports psychologists?  This year’s Super Bowl champions even have a meditation teacher.


Because they want to perform at a high level over time.  And they know they can’t get into peak performance shape alone.  You bring in experts to keep you sharp, to help you recover, to help you handle and learn from the mental, emotional, and physical challenges that come with high-stakes and high-pressure careers.

Is it a sign of weakness to have so many people helping them?  Shouldn’t they be able to handle the stress and training on their own?

No.  At elite levels you have a crew to support you.  That’s how you get to that level, and that’s how you compete at your very best without cracking under pressure.  No one finds and reaches past their edge alone.

Going it alone is a recipe for hitting the wall, burning out, and burning bridges.

Your team might include a personal trainer, nutritionist, mentors, your family, a career coach or advisor.  Who do you turn to when you want help with something?  The expert on your team.

Having the right team can give you a competitive edge, and set you up for long-term success.

You’ve worked hard to become a lawyer.  You give an enormous part of your life to your career and clients.  Protect your investment, and have a lot more fun, by valuing your wellbeing and selecting the right team to help you along the way.


I’m partnering with Lawline to offer a new CLE: What Every Lawyer Needs to Know About Substance Abuse.

Join the live webcast on September 12, noon Eastern / 9AM Pacific. Or download it later to watch at your convenience.

The program is 60-minutes, and is CLE-approved for Alaska, Arizona, California, Missouri, New York, Georgia, Hawaii, New Jersey, Illinois, North Carolina, and Arkansas.


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