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Your Guide to Spotting and Addressing Burnout in Legal Professionals


The American culture of compulsive productivity has led to unprecedented levels of burnout among working professionals. Although burnout is not exclusive to the legal industry, it has become something of an epidemic. According to a 2020 survey by the California Lawyers Association, 24% of female respondents and 17% of male respondents had “considered leaving the legal industry due to mental health problems, burnout or stress.”

In this article, we’re going to share some techniques you can use to spot and address burnout in legal professionals.

Let’s get started!

Signs of Burnout

One of the biggest challenges in identifying burnout is that many of the symptoms are simply considered “normal” for attorneys. Nevertheless, it’s important to address these issues as soon as possible because they can lead to severe physical and emotional problems if left untreated.


The occasional late night can be weathered without too much fanfare, however, if you notice that you (or someone you know) is constantly tired regardless of how long they’ve slept, it can be a cause for concern. Sleep plays an integral role in mental and emotional wellness and can hasten the course of slowly building burnout to full-blown collapse.

Physical Pain

The human body has a tendency to reflect mental health in physical health. Experiencing headaches, nausea, stomach pain or chest pain are relatively common physical symptoms of burnout. Once you begin to notice that your lack of work-life balance has manifested physically, it’s time to take a break.

Poor Work Performance

It’s so frustrating when you feel that your work is not up to your usual standards. Unfortunately, this frustration can lead many legal professionals to double-down in their careers, attempting to “make up for” the lower quality of work by putting in more time and energy. This cycle is extremely dangerous and can increase the momentum of burnout. It can also lead to panic attacks, increased irritability, depression, and an overall loss of fulfillment in your life. Try to maintain perspective, focus on long-term goals, and acknowledge that work is only one facet of your life that deserves attention.

Addressing a Case of Burnout

Burnout can originate from different places for different people. Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment plan that can be expected to work for everyone. Instead, you need to examine the root cause of your burnout and create a personal wellness plan, designed to help you to build and maintain personal and professional health.

Remember, you don’t need to face burnout alone! Working with a therapist can expedite this process and provide insight into the cause of burnout in cases where it is unclear to the person experiencing the symptoms. You can also review ABA resources on attorney well-being. For example, the organization has shared “The Well-being Toolkit for Lawyers and Legal Employers” and the text is a great jumping-off point for discussion in your household or within your firm.

Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading! We hope we’ve been able to explain how you can identify burnout in legal professionals. If you enjoyed this article, let us know on social media!

Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns. At First Legal, we’re here for you from File Thru Trial™!

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