When Do You Stop Being a Lawyer?

What to do when you can’t turn your thinking off.

What to do when you can’t turn your thinking off.

With a trial date looming, the potential for a case to become all-consuming is always there. As a lawyer, you have been trained to think like a lawyer. You have gained a certain skill related to the way you think. You gather data and facts. You analyze the data and facts. You interview witnesses. You have learned to ask questions, make arguments, and research law. A large part of your work takes place between your ears. You have an on-off switch for your phone, and you computer, but not for your thinking.

The Problem with Thinking
I recently read an astounding statistic that nearly 40% of lawyers are depressed. There were lots of reasons given, and if you are a lawyer, you are probably familiar with most of them. It seems to me that the main reason why so many lawyers struggle is because they have not figured out a way to turn off their brains. Most of the lawyers I have talked with (and represented) have noted that they have problems sleeping. They can’t stop thinking. They think about their cases, they think abut their practices, they think about their staff. All kinds of thoughts pop into their heads, all the time.

Now, I cannot stop your thoughts but I can suggest some ways that just may assist you.

Make a Decision
Decide when and where you will be a lawyer. If you are a lawyer during your “work,” that will not help you. “Work” is way too vague a word. We can be at work anywhere anytime.

I have seen more than a few people, sitting on a beach by the ocean, already up in their heads at work. They had left their vacation early.

I noticed this in myself. It would take at least a couple of days of vacation to finally get out of my head, and notice the sand at my feet, and the ocean air. Then, a couple of days before I was slated to fly home, I was already dreading the catchup that I had waiting for me back at the office. I have watched the little clock on my nightstand tick away, hour after hour while my mind raced with arguments, examinations, law and potential disasters.

Punch Out
Now, when I notice I am not sleeping, I “punch out.” I recognize that all that I’m thinking of is on the other side of a good night’s sleep. I recognize that without sleep, I will be much less of a lawyer.

If I am talking with family, I realize that there are relationships that, if not maintained, will make me less of a lawyer. Chances are, the more human you are, the better lawyer you will be. Take time, and carve it out, to be human.

What Do the Greats Do?
Sure, we all know some folks who are machines…legal machines. If they are great lawyers, check out what they do to become great. Chances are that they have developed a way to turn off the office. Chances are that they have found a way to be great lawyers by drawing some clear lines where, at times, they stop being a lawyer. Chances are that they have found some strategies for turning off their “work” brain.

 

Share your insights about turning off work with us in the comments!

Brian Vincent has over 30 years of experience as a business law attorney and has worked extensively with business owners to protect and defend their interests.  Contact Brian  online or at (616) 608-4440 with your questions.

 

Posted on June 21, 2016 .