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5 Practical Tips for New Lawyers to Avoid Depression

A survey from the ABA Young Lawyers Division found that 41% of female attorneys were unhappy with their jobs. A highly cited study from Johns Hopkins University of more than 100 occupations found that lawyers had the highest incidence of depression.

While these figures are alarming, it’s not surprising that many lawyers are depressed. After all, the practice of law is inherently stressful. It’s a demanding career, and some days, it feels as if the work will never be done.

For new lawyers, the first few years can be especially stressful. Here are five practical tips to help prevent depression.

1. Accept That Mistakes Happen

Lawyers are often highly ambitious, over-achieving and have a tendency toward perfectionism. These traits aren’t necessarily a bad thing, especially in the legal field, but it can be problematic when taken to the extreme.

The strive for perfection can sometimes impede a lawyer’s ability to be flexible and accommodating.

It’s important to accept that mistakes can and will happen. In fact, mistakes should be viewed as learning opportunities and an important part of life.

2. Make Sure That You’ve Chosen the Right Practice Area

Some practice areas are more stressful or rewarding than others. Many new lawyers choose a specialty based on their passion and interest, which is often enough to keep them happy and balanced. However, others may choose a practice area based on the potential earnings or because of pressure from others.

Make sure that you’ve chosen a practice area that suits you. Working as an employment lawyer, for example, may be more fulfilling and potentially less stressful than working as a criminal lawyer.

3. Set Realistic Goals and Prioritize Tasks

You may have all of the ambition and motivation in the world, but there are only so many hours in a day and only so many tasks you can tackle on your own. Set realistic goals that you know you can achieve. Accomplishing these goals will provide a sense of accomplishment and reduce stress by ticking more items off your to-do list.

It’s also important to prioritize tasks. Focus on putting your efforts into action items that are important. Delegate items that are not time-sensitive or insignificant.

4. Make it a Priority to Maintain a Healthy Work/Life Balance

Maintaining a healthy work/life balance is important – even for lawyers. Make it a priority to care for yourself so that you can take good care of your clients. Neglecting your physical, emotional and mental health will increase the risk of making mistakes.

Make sure that you’re achieving an optimal balance between life, work and play. If you find that you’re stressed all of the time, it may be time to make changes to help you achieve a more balanced life.

5. Find a Healthy Outlet for Stress

Stress is par for the course, but accepting it and finding a healthy outlet for it will help prevent it from becoming a problem. Stress can be managed through exercise, hobbies and socializing. Try scheduling these things into your calendar so that you don’t put them off.

While there’s no foolproof way to prevent depression, these five tips may help you maintain a healthy work/life balance that makes it easier to manage stress.

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