It is common knowledge that lawyers are very high (pun not intended) on the list of professionals who suffer from stress related substance abuse, a fact confirmed by a recent major study co-funded by the American Bar Association and Betty Ford Foundation. Look it up later if you’d like. For now, keep reading.

Why all the stress?

If you’re a lawyer you probably already know, but the list below could still serve as a handy catalog for your angst.

If you’re not a lawyer but are a sensitive human being who subscribes to the “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” philosophy, then this will help you to understand the unique challenges lawyers face.

And finally, if you’re not a lawyer, and, to put it charitably, not inclined to feel sorry for one, this might shed some light and change your mind. If not, you’ll delight in the schadenfreude.

Here we go.

1. Financial pressures~

Most lawyers aren’t making as much as you think (the average salary is about $81,000), and if you’re a recent law grad, it is likely to be substantially less, if you can find a job . Oh, and if you’re average, you’re also carrying school debt of $141,000.

2. Client pressures~fasterbettercheaper~

Client email: “Hi, we’re closing tomorrow, but wanted to run this tome past you real quick. Most of it is boilerplate, and we’re pretty sure the rest is straightforward. So would you mind putting your malpractice carrier on the hook (or if you don’t have one, your assets) and give us your opinion when you get a chance-this afternoon? Thanks so much.”

3. Opposing counsel~

In a perfect world opposing counsels in litigation or a transaction would be strong adversaries for their clients, yet civil and collegial to their fellows on the other side. And over more than three decades of practice in litigation and transactions, I can honestly say civility has been the rule rather than the exception. But when the exception presents itself it can ruin your day. Like, really ruin it. And even if this is only ten or twenty percent of your interactions, it’s enough to pile on the stress.

4. Commoditization~

LegalZoom anyone? Let’s face it, the same technology that allows us to rent a movie in seconds without trekking to the cinema, view a YouTube video on how to fix a toilet without a plumber, or make a handgun with a 3D printer, also allows potential clients to file paperwork to form a limited liability company, draft a lease or a file a patent registration. I know, I know, there are all kinds of risks associated with do it yourself legal forms, and the counsel of an experienced lawyer simply isn’t (at least today) subject to commoditizing. And that value is worth a great deal. But you can’t count on the simple, commodity stuff to pay the overhead anymore. With that gone, we get a little more…stress.

5. Wrestling with technology~

Speaking of which, just try to wrap your head around artificial intelligence, SEO, social media, data encryption, e-discovery, practicing in the cloud, digital forensics, ethical imperatives for tech proficiency, document storage, document templates, practice systems, billing systems, time management systems, outbound internet marketing, inbound internet marketing, blogging, articling. Let’s do this. Work all day on client matters, mindful of the billing requirements to meet the demands of a) your billing partner or b) your creditors. Then, study all of the above and determine which of them to focus on for the last few hours of your day, while neglecting your family and yourself. Isn’t this fun?

So now you know.

Or already knew.

Or maybe just had a few moments of stress-free distraction.

I hope so.

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Dave has been a practicing lawyer for 30+ years, from inside and general counsel, to private practice.
He maintains a private practice as well as a consulting and copywriting business focused on professional services firms.
You can also find him on LinkedIn

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