lawyer fear aba journal

Managing fear is simply part of a person’s life, experts say.

As we enter the most joyous—and most pressure-filled—time of the year, I hear from a lot of attorneys that their stress levels are reaching peak levels. As the end of the calendar year races toward us, so do obligations and deadlines, professional and personal.

To help counter that, today I share an ABA Journal article titled “How Lawyers Can Turn Fear Into an Ally.”

The piece by Kevin Davis includes these eye-opening sentences:

“Lawyers often are imprisoned by fear. They’re fearful that their cases are out of control. They’re fearful of looking foolish. They’re fearful of negotiating. They’re fearful of appearing weak. Even continuing legal education courses can contribute by making lawyers fear that they are not up to date on current practices or wary of the myriad number of things that can go wrong.”

Among the resources cited by Davis is a piece by John Lande titled “Escaping from Lawyers’ Prison of Fear.” It’s worth a look.

I previously shared a guest post by John, who is a law professor emeritus at the University of Missouri School of Law.

John Lande

John Lande

Here’s hoping these resources, and others, can keep the holiday fears at bay.


Law practice is a stress-prone profession. We know this through research and experience. But what can be done when we—or our colleagues—are responding to the stress in damaging ways?

As much as we might like to see stress in law practice simply evaporate, that is unlikely to happen. And it is stress and its multiple outcomes that make a State Bar seminar this Friday worth considering.

The title is “Protecting Your Practice: Ethically Dealing with the Impaired Lawyer,” and you can get more information (and register) here. As you’ll see, the panel of experts will examine how you can address—and maybe help—a colleague who is exhibiting warning signs of impairment.

The seminar will be held on this Friday morning, December 12. Because you’re likely busy, I’ll lighten your stress level by copying in here the seminar description:

“With the demands and stresses of the profession increasing every day, lawyers have an increased risk of suffering from mental illness and substance abuse. If you encounter an impaired lawyer, what should you do? This program will teach you:

  • The warning signs of alcohol or substance abuse, mental health and stress-related issues
  • The ethical duties under ER 8.3 to report
  • Employment issues including HIPAA and ADA requirements
  • How to handle a client of an impaired lawyer
  • Guidelines for policies, procedures and practical advice

“Don’t wait for a crisis, learn how to avoid one.”

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorFaculty

  • Chair: James P. O’Sullivan, Tiffany & Bosco, PA
  • Chair: Roberta L. Tepper, Esq., Lawyer Assistance Programs Director, State Bar of Arizona
  • Nancy Greenlee, Esq.
  • Denise M. Blommel, Denise M. Blommel, PLLC
  • Christine Colwell, Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP
  • Dr. Dan Gross, Sovereign Health of Phoenix

So, how do we even know these are important and life-threatening issues? You told us, in the State’s Bar’s most recent member survey. (You can read the results here, in “Stress, Ethics, Professionalism Top Attorney Concerns.”)

And in our November 2012 story about that year’s member survey, even as members exhibited some optimism about the profession, research still described problematic aspects that face attorneys, among them depression, substance abuse and career dissatisfaction.

Later in the same issue, we shared candid remarks from attorneys, many of whom find the practice’s challenges—including law school debt—debilitating.

And don’t even take your colleagues’ word for it. In a 2013 issue, Dr. Martin Blinder explained many of those challenges in his article “Psychic Trauma, Emotional Burnout and the Practice of Law.”

A tip of the hat to Friday’s panelists, who aim to be part of the solution.

psychic burnout emotional trauma and law practiceToday I am pleased to share a guest post written by an Arizona lawyer. Josh Blumenreich (see his bio after the post) was happy to write on a topic on which lawyers need educating: stress management.

We’ve covered the topic in Arizona Attorney Magazine, and it bears repeating that psychic stress will take a toll on hard-working professionals (or anyone).

Without further ado, here’s Josh:

Stress is a leading factor of several health issues, including heart ailments, weight gain or weight loss, anxiety, nervousness, and much more. Especially for those in strenuous fields of work, employees may find themselves constantly haunted by all-consuming levels of stress. This is particularly true for practicing lawyers. With strict deadlines, around-the-clock work, pressure to meet billable hours, competition amongst coworkers, and difficult or stubborn clients, the stress may feel never-ending … and that’s just the beginning.

Thus, it is essential for those in the legal industry to focus on stress management. This is key for a lawyer’s overall well-being, both personally and professionally. Below are some handy ideas and techniques that can help aid in one’s journey toward effectively handling stress:

    • Set priorities – The workload of a lawyer can become wholly overwhelming. The to-do list is constantly growing as tasks and responsibilities are thrown from left and right. Setting priorities helps determine which jobs need to get done first, enabling the individual to focus on one thing at a time (instead of trying to juggle multiple tasks at once).
    • Don’t forget to take breaks – During work hours, it is important to find 10 or 15 minutes every day to take a break from the job. Take a walk around the building, lie down in a cool room, or enjoy a cup of coffee. This will help clear the mind and add a change of pace to relieve stress.
    • Utilize apps – There are several beneficial apps for those in the legal field that aid as stress relievers. The iPad and iPhone provide various technological options for lawyers to help organize schedules as well as provide legal news, dictionary terms, juror information, and more.
Josh Blumenreich Arizona defense attorney

Josh Blumenreich

  • Separate work from home – This is essential for stress management. More often than not, lawyers tend to bring the tension and worry from work back home with them. It can be difficult to stop oneself from thinking about everything that needs to get done the next day when they are off the clock, but you must try to leave work-related thoughts at the office. Actively make home a place of sanity and relaxation.
  • Find an outlet – In order to relieve tension resulting from the law firm, one must find somewhere else to release the stress. Each outlet will vary from person to person. For instance, some people may want to find someone outside of work they can vent to, while others will prefer to either write in a journal, spend time working out, or join a club.

These methods are beneficial for controlling stress levels in order to maintain a healthy, focused and successful life both at the law firm and at home. While work is an undeniable part of your waking life, it should not negatively impact the well-being of any individual. Practicing lawyers need to ensure their personal stress management, as explained above. The legal world is demanding, but it should not demand the health of its employees.

About the Author: Josh Blumenreich is an Arizona defense attorney and, utilizing his educational and professional background, he offers his skills and years of experience to represent and defend his clients fairly. He works diligently to protect the rights of each individual’s case, whether it is a misdemeanor or felony. Blumenreich also provides legal representation for DUIs, theft, drug charges, murder, domestic violence, and more.

Who needs a break?

That was on my mind as I swung my legs out of bed on this Monday morning. Here it is, mid-June, and I still haven’t planned to take a vacation.

Are you in the same boat?

Lawyers and vacations share an uneasy relationship. They clearly need a break away from work stressors. But many attorneys find that they cannot—or will not—get away.

So I was wondering: How many of you are planning a vacation this summer, or have taken one already.

Before you get to the simple survey questions below, here are two guidelines to keep in mind: 

  • When I say “vacation,” I do not mean that you never ever ever check email. You know what’s too much. Answer accordingly.
  • When I say “vacation,” I tend not to think of lawyer-education conferences. But I guess we can disagree, so if “CLE on Pelican Bay” is your idea of relaxation, feel free to answer accordingly.
  • When I say “vacation,” that could mean visiting family across the country, or it could not. I am not getting in the middle of the debate over whether an obligatory journey to see family is a vacation. We all have our opinions. Answer according to your conscience and level of guilt.

So here’s the survey. Click away! (and thanks for participating!)

Dogs and why we love them is the foundation for another news story about the impact canines can have on our well being. And yes, it’s true for lawyers too

Last year, I wrote about the use of therapy dogs in courthouses. In that post, I noted that our own past State Bar of Arizona President Ray Hanna had highlighted the same thing in one of his Arizona Attorney columns.

As I wrote then:

“Over the past few years, animals—usually dogs—have been used more and more in courtrooms around the country, even in Arizona. It’s been discovered that they have a soothing effect on parties and other trial participants. Thus, in their own unique way, dogs may contribute to the administration of justice.”

Ray Hanna and companion in a 2010 President's Message

Today, we read a story confirming the doggie effect, this time for law students. As finals season grinds to a close, here is how the news story out of Emory Law opens:

In the hallowed library of Emory Law, you can hear the sounds of finals week:
“Sit! Sit!”
The students making these noises are not delirious from studying for exams, but maybe they would be, if not for … therapy dogs.

If your experience is anything like mine, those are not the typical sounds of law school (except for the barked admonition “SIT,” but that’s another post).

Here is the video portion of the story.

Do you agree that dogs could or do improve your legal work life? Write to tell me how.