Numerous factors can contribute to lawyers being so stressed out, including the adversarial nature of the profession, society’s view of the lawyers, and the increasing complexity of practicing law.
In spring 1997 we attended a tradeshow where we received a copy of a flyer titled “Why are Lawyers So Stressed?” published by The Complete Lawyer a web-based magazine for attorneys. This flyer provides lawyers, and the staff working with them, such insight to the pressures an attorney deals with every day, Molly has had this flyer on her vision board for the past 12 years as a constant reminder as she talks with law firm teams! We thought it was more than timely to share it now.
What are some of the factors, leading to such a high rate of depression among lawyers?
1. Time constraints and deadlines.
2. Taking on high-stakes cases that involve a client’s loss of property, freedom or even life.
3. Clients’ expectation that lawyers possess a certain level of expertise; our desire for unambiguous clarity where none may exist.
4. Work product is always under constant scrutiny and critical judgment by fellow lawyers, judges and juries.
5. Conflict with other parties; opposing counsel’s desire to prove us wrong, now or later.
6. Fear of malpractice claims, Murphy’s Law and CYB (covering your backside).
7. Assumption of our clients’ burdens when they leave the office.
8. Demise of professional cordiality.
9. Professional training versus our own personal style; an aggressive, judgmental, intellectual and emotionally defended or withdrawn style may have practical value; but may be not so popular outside, or even sometimes inside the office.
10. Being trained to anticipate the negative potentials of a given situation; the cost of constant vigilance in a threatening world.
11. Depletion of energy from high demands; the need to stay focused and on task.
12. Frequent use of defense mechanisms such as rigidity, compulsiveness and perfectionism.
13. Adherence to group norms; meeting billable hour expectations.
After working with 300+ law firms we can attest that not only do we agree with the identified risk factors by The Complete Lawyer™ but we can confirm that over 98% of the law firms we work with ARE living the pain and stress today, 13 years after this article was originally published. Not only are attorneys stressed and/or depressed, but they are often misunderstood by their employees and alienated from them by these pressures.
So, HOW and WHAT do we do about it? And how can you help the staff you pay to support you understand these pressures and help put in support mechanisms to overcome them?
Find out November 5th at 4-5pm EST. Register you and your staff now for our complimentary webinar “The Attorney and Team Mindset Necessary to Create an Extraordinary Practice”. Limited space – click here to register now!
There are many techniques to hiring, training and developing team, some of which we will cover later in this blog. But no matter how many people are on your team – if it’s just three of you or 100 of you – there is one key to hiring that is an absolute and can never be ignored.
When dealing with people, and team members are people, it’s hard to deal in absolutes. Sometimes people defy the rules or the expectations, but this one is a definite. The key is hiring 100% of the time based on integrity.
Webster’s Dictionary Definition of Integrity: A firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values
Our Definition of Integrity: Do what you say you are going to do, when you say you are going to do it with a 100% authentic stand -every step of the way.
Integrity is one of the most crucial yet mind boggling of terms. Integrity is an ‘airy fairy’ term rarely understood. To give you perspective, it is sometimes used at the same time with “moral”, but it is separate and distinct. Let us help clear up the distinction and more so, share why it matters in the hiring process!
If a team member doesn’t have integrity it doesn’t matter how talented they are, how good they are at what they do, how many hours they work or anything else you normally judge performance on, they are not a fit for your team. Not only will they eventually not work out, but they will poison your team and you will lose good team members along with them. Or worse yet, team members who are out of integrity will stay and continue to be a communicable disease to every client and new team member that walks through your door. Don’t continue to allow a poisonous apple to take root in your workplace.
If your gut is saying “something doesn’t feel right in the belly”, don’t even bother hiring them. Integrity is not trainable, you have it or you don’t. You can’t pay for it, work harder for it or teach it – it’s there or it isn’t.
Let Molly put this into perspective for you with a real life example…
Amy passed every interview, Kolbe matching and reference check with flying colors. Less than five days into the job, red flags were popping up everywhere. Here is one simple illustration – and you don’t need much more than this. This is more than enough evidence of lack of integrity. It started off with her first business trip on the proverbial company dime where her room service bill was $65.00… for one person, for one dinner. Let me paint the picture, this was a single mom of two teenage boys who were getting ready to head off to college, on public assistance and her annual salary was $19,000. This was not a CEO making six figures. This was a person with the entitlement mentality that she was going to get fat (literally with a $65 meal!!!) off the company hog. Lack of integrity. It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that friends.
Keys of Integrity
Integrity is a tricky thing. Sometimes the people with the least seem to have the most talent, charm and charisma. Talent, ability and knowledge is not enough. In fact, these should be the last ingredients added to the mix. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can work around lack of integrity. Hiring a team member with no integrity is the biggest mistake you can make.
Integrity IS…when these might show up in the workplace:
• Doing the right thing when nobody is watching
• Taking a complaint to someone who can do something about it
• Refraining from gossip & when a co-worker has a complaint they say “how can I help you with this? vs. going along for the gossip ride and creating a truth that the “workplace sucks”
• Their “weekend” life is totally in line w/their “weekday” life (when you have integrity you have it everywhere in your life)
NO Integrity is … when these things show up in the workplace:
• Talking of cheating on a spouse/partner, shopping till they drop when they say they don’t make enough money, slamming friends, neighbors and ex-coworkers
• Starting conversations with “don’t tell anybody, but…” or “you didn’t hear it from me…”. If you say it out loud, it will and should be expected that it will be repeated.
Declaring Integrity As a Must Exercise:
As a team leader, get everyone involved and develop a set of core values for you as a team to live by. Have each team member define the core values that are important to them. Then everyone convene (we always recommend over coffee and food) and declare what your team as a whole will stand for, operate by and expect every employee/team member to live by.
Some examples: respect for others (we treat others how we wish to be treated), commitment to family (we put our families first and support everyone in putting their families first), community contribution, spiritual guidance and growth (we contribute to our community by sponsoring a local charity each year/do the breast cancer walk/work in a soup kitchen at Thanksgiving, etc. that will contribute to an environment of peace that will greatly impact our clients and our lives.)
These core values can be used to assess new team members as well evaluate existing team during team reviews. Think about framing your list of core values so your clients, referral sources and even vendors know what is important to you as a “family and community based business” and why we do what we do for you. Not only are you creating a place of peace and possibility but a beautiful, deliberate by-product of increased referrals. Who would read those core values and NOT want to refer their friends and family to you?
Creating core values is one small way to begin to get you and your team on the same page. To learn the fundamentals to the Attorney & Team Mindset Necessary to Create an Extraordinary Practice, register now for our Webinar, November 5th from 4-5pm EST. Limited Space! Register Now!