Tag Archives: holidays

More Than The Holiday Blues: How Your Firm Can Combat Employee Anxiety & Depression

Thanksgiving sparks the beginning of family get-togethers, year-end deadlines, and, as a result, mental health concerns.

Considering this contentious, recent election coincides with the arrival of holidays already associated with anxiety, stress, and drinking way too much, it’s important to discuss how your law firm or business will handle behavioral health problems of its employees this season.

The American Bar Association (ABA) recently partnered with Hazelden and reported findings from its study on the rates of substance use and other mental health concerns among lawyers in the Journal of Addiction Medicine. While they may not surprise you, the results can help law firm managers better prepare for a potentially dicey December.

One of the more interesting takeaways was that younger lawyers are at higher risk for abusing alcohol. Apparently attorneys in the first 10 years of their practice experience the highest rates of problematic use (28.9%), followed by attorneys practicing for 11 to 20 years (20.6), reports Above The Law blog.

It goes without saying that anxiety and stress are highly correlated with alcohol abuse. And, the study somberly states, “ubiquity of alcohol in the legal professional culture certainly demonstrates both its ready availability and social acceptability, should one choose to cope with their mental health problems in that manner,” (via ATL).

It’s easy to think that symptoms of these behavioral problems would be evident. If younger associates are starting to smell of alcohol or miss deadlines, certainly that’s cause for concern.

However, extreme reactions to stress and anxiety can happen under the radar. Take, for instance, a sad story about a law graduate who recently committed suicide after failing the California Bar Exam.

The graduate’s parents issued a statement. In addition to expression surprise, they implored other students to reach out for support.

“Our son Brian Christopher Grauman unexpectedly took his own life on Friday evening 18 Nov 2016, after learning he did not pass the California Bar Exam. We are still trying to understand such an extreme reaction by Brian. We know he loved studying and debating law, and he was intently focused on fulfilling his dream of practicing law in the courtroom….”

“It appears the idea of repeating the last 7 months of his life to again prepare for the Bar Exam and then once more nervously await months for the results was too much for him. We deeply regret that he did not take the time to talk to anyone after learning his exam results.”

In the ideal world, a law firm manager can sense his or her associate’s breaking point. But, in reality, the human emotional state can be fragile and unpredictable.

That’s why it’s really important to bring these issues out into the open and provide a forum for your employees to express their anxieties, desires, and concerns.

Here’s how you can do it.

First, survey your associates to find out how prevalent these issues are within your firm. Ensure its anonymity. Second, confirm with your healthcare provider that your firm’s employees have affordable access to counseling and other mental health services. Circulate these options in a firm-wide memo.

Finally, make it clear to your office that you take mental health seriously by offering preventative activities, such as gym memberships, gift certificates to local spas, bring in a masseur this month for 15-minutes massages, or invite a yoga teacher to offer classes before work for a week to introduce associates to the sport.

Consider making wellness a priority and outlet your employees’ happiness, not happy hour. You won’t just survive this holiday season—you’ll thrive.

 

-WB

For more ideas about how to generate a productive, thriving law firm, learn more from The Center for Competitive Management’s webinars here.

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Feeling Pressure To Work On Thanksgiving? Why Associates & Partners Should Go Home

Last month, AmLaw held its first conference for new partners in big firms. There they gathered information about the various expectations, disappointments, and surprises that came with making law partner in or after 2008.

“Overall,the new partners are basking in the land of more: more money, moreresponsibility, and more information about their firms. However, their workloadand their time with clients and, alas, with family are all about the same,”wrote The AmLaw Daily about their findings.

There were two classes of new partners—those who received ample mentorship and training from superiors, and those who felt unprepared and unguided in their new partnership path. Law firm partners, however, are not alone in feeling the strain of muddled expectations.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and though it is an official, federal holiday, it’s not uncommon for lawyers—from associates to senior partners—to be summoned to the office.

At the same time, other associates will feel pressure to come in to the office with or without orders to do so. We all know that stress and competition levels are high in a downturn economy.

Of course there are always tasks to complete on client matters, time to make up, or good impressions to promulgate. But, associates and new partners tend to also fall victim to believing a hidden expectation exists that requires them to work on holidays.

Here are a few reasons why you should stay home this Thanksgiving.

1. Set your own expectations

Believe it or not, your firm does not expect all of its associates to work onThanksgiving. In fact, billing holiday time will be difficult to explain to strapped-for-cash clients. And, if  you an associate looking to get promoted, your actions now only speak to the firm’s established expectations of you in the future.

If you don’t want the firm to expect you to work every Thanksgiving year-on-year (and then every Christmas, New Years, and Flag Day too), opt out of this one.

2. See your family

An attorney’s schedule is an arduous one. Many weekends are spent in the office, conducting research, filing briefs, or at trial. However, court clerks and clients alike take a break on Thanksgiving. And so should you.

Take this unique opportunity where stores and courthouses are closed to celebrate something special with your family. This time may not come again soon.

3. Teach your firm that you can telecommute

If there are deeds to be done, do them at home. Set the standard now that you are able to telecommute, and be productive when doing so. On Wednesday, check out a firm laptop and let your colleagues know you will be logging in remotely. After all, isn’t that why your firm invested money in all that new technology?

Senior attorneys will be impressed that your casework was completed at home, and you will be grateful to have a mouthful of turkey and pumpkin pie during those tedious hours of doc review.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving—From, [Insert name of] your firm.

-WB

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