From client meetings and long work days to demanding deadlines and tense relationships with opposing counsel, it’s a well-known fact that practicing law isn’t for the faint of heart. About a decade ago, Chicago civil defense attorney Daniel Arnett was ready to leave the legal industry and become a bartender due to his “insane” stress.
According to The American Lawyer’s 2020 Midlevel Associates Survey, nearly 50% of midlevel associates have anxiety. Three in four associates also said their firms negatively affect their mental health.
“Sole practitioners get so overwhelmed from all of the built-up pressure, and they have nowhere to go with it," said family law attorney David Kirsh.
While larger firms may have multiple partners for support, Kirsh said that doesn’t eliminate the pressure of clients regularly turning to their attorneys for important answers.
In addition to daily stress, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and added more anxiety. Courts closed, attorneys had to work from home and depositions were given virtually.
“There’s a whole new level of stress with technology,” said insurance defense attorney Margaret Bentley of Kelley Kronenberg. She explained that it’s now harder to determine the credibility of a witness without the ability to analyze in-person body language.
And all of this built-up pressure could ultimately impact client relationships.
“You cannot make good decisions and serve your clients if you’re fighting internally and taking things personally,” Arnett said.
Attorneys Seeking Tools to Manage Good Mental Health
Fortunately, resources are available for lawyers and staff struggling with mental health. Kirsh volunteers his time with the Lawyers’ Assistance Program to help lawyers and law students with substance abuse, addiction and mental health issues.
Before abandoning his legal career, Arnett sought help from coaches, seminars and books and ultimately followed his dream of opening his own law firm, Arnett Law Group, LLC. The firm has since grown to seven attorneys, and Arnett places mental health at the forefront of his efforts. He invited his team members to help revise the firm’s billing process, allowed them to work on a flexible schedule and checked on them throughout the pandemic via daily Zoom meetings. He even created a “Zen Den” at the office, a special forest-themed room where his attorneys can recharge.
“The culture here is unlike any other firm that I know of,” Arnett said.
While Bentley has learned tricks to minimize her daily anxiety, such as taking breaks throughout the day and staying prioritized, she’s grateful for the resources that Kelley Kronenberg offers its attorneys. Like Arnett, Bentley’s unit leader holds weekly Zoom meetings and stays in touch with the Chicago team throughout the day, as the firm’s headquarters is based in Florida.
Attorney Mental Health Starts in the Office
Bentley said another stress-reliever is Amata Law Office Suites, Chicago’s first legal community of more than 700 attorneys and Class-A downtown offices. She has been managing Kelley Kronenberg’s Chicago office at Amata since last year. Kirsh operates his firm here as well.
When the pandemic hit, Amata scanned lawyers’ mail for 90 days and handled document preparations (free-of-charge) to help reduce attorneys’ stress of managing their practices during a worldwide health crisis. With the help of Amata, Bentley and her team members were able to continue serving the needs of their clients without interruption or delay. She said she has been very happy with the services.
Don’t let long work days and demanding deadlines run you and your practice. Call us or visit our website and take an online or in-person tour of one of our Class-A law firm office spaces. Consider joining the Amata community to learn how our business model is perfectly aligned to combat lawyers’ stress. We run the office while you run the practice.