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Get back up again

Get back up again

By Laura Ann Wilson & Sarah Mercer

Health Occupations Opinions Wellbeing Workplace 

Resilience in the law is found outside the law. Here are some tips on how to develop resilience both as a lawyer and as a person. “I get knocked down but I get up again” This classic song springs to mind when talking about resilience in the law. The law can be a thrilling, fast-paced and rewarding profession. But it can also be challenging. The job can involve strict time limits, dealing with confronting and distressing subject matter, and managing high conflict personalities (both clients and colleagues). Some of these scenarios may be familiar: You didn’t get that clerkship/internship/job. You are crushed. You don’t know what to do next. You are studying full-time, working several jobs (or one job full-time). In your "spare time" you are volunteering while struggling to uphold a personal life. Over-committed, you hit crisis point. You land your first lawyer gig. You worry that they will find out you aren’t really good enough. You land your dream job. It is a nightmare. You are stuck at work all the time and the stress of it all keeps you up at night. If you identified with any of the above scenarios, fear not. You are not alone, many have gone through this before you. Law school and lawyer life is hard. Nothing prepares you for it. But you can find ways to make it work for you. Wellbeing in the profession Legal professionals and law students experience higher rates of mental health issues than professionals in other industries. 1 A possible reason for this is that high performance industries such as law tend to attract type A personalities. Type A describes people whose temperament is characterised by excessive competitiveness, need for control, impatience, and excessively high expectations. 2 Many would joke that these are stereotypical lawyer traits. Several factors that contribute to stresses confronting new lawyers include: training lawyers to engage in inherently negative thinking; a legal culture of competitiveness with fellow peers; the adversarial nature of the justice system itself; dealing with difficult subject matter and experiencing vicarious trauma; a lack of perceived peer-support for new lawyers; stressful workplace environments and organisational practices; a lack of meaning and autonomy at work. Traditionally, the expectation within the profession was that lawyers quietly manage their mental health. In recent years however there has been a shift towards workplaces addressing mental health. There now appears to be a strong emphasis on lawyers developing resilience and bouncing back from adversity. So, what is this resilience that they speak of? Have you got it? And is there an expectation (and pressure) that lawyers excel at resilience too?

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