So, you worked your arse off to find a job in a law firm while you were in law school. You copped the whole studying and working full time for maybe a year (two in my case). There were probably countless nights you got home late from work, stopped for dinner, loaded yourself with coffee before hitting the books until the early hours of the morning.

Now, work is good – it’s challenging.  You’re learning a lot.  But, there are times when you think to yourself, “is this as good as it gets?” and “when will I get to do the good stuff?”

However, whenever someone says to you, “oh you’re working? Well done, you’ll get there”. You just imagine throwing a book at their head.

When this happens, you know you need to take a step back.

So, what’s the key to taking things in your stride? And not getting so worked up over the fact that you FEEL you’re not quite on the path you’re meant to be on.

The tricks are…

*Drum roll*

Trick one: breathe, there is a world outside law

When you’re working in a law firm, in the beginning, it’s all consuming.  You’re also constantly learning.  You want to pay attention to everything around you because you want to know how to do things, so you can contribute to the team and be productive.  You certainly don’t want to be making little mistakes and finding yourself in the strife with anyone.

The thing is, you’re going to make little mistakes, and big mistakes for that matter, and you will find yourself in the strife with someone – but it’s all part of it. If you’re anything like me, I come down hard on myself for the mistakes. Try not to do that – it doesn’t do you any good.  The mistake doesn’t last forever. Take it on the chin, learn from it and keep moving.

We all have to crawl before we can walk, and walk before we can run.   You have to move through the paces in order to progress to the next step.

So next time you’re feeling all consumed, and something goes wrong, breathe and remember, there is a world outside law. Go home, have a glass of wine. Tomorrow is a new day.

Trick two: a good night’s sleep

I cannot stress how important it is to get a good night’s sleep.   When you start working in a law firm, there is nothing quite like the first time your mind wakes you up at 2.00am, and you question whether in fact you did serve the claim – did you confirm the other side had instructions to accept service? What if you didn’t ? How am I going to explain this? See, I know exactly how that works.  And no, it’s not fun.

Nip that in the bud as soon as you can.  Be present whilst you’re at work. Don’t go into auto pilot. Pay attention to whether you are ticking the boxes.  Unless you’re prepared to go into the office in the middle of the night, there is no point stressing over things at 2.00am.

Having a good night’s sleep is, without a doubt, going to improve your overall well being, ability to focus, be productive and creative.  Not to mention, it’ll help with not falling asleep with your head in your hand whilst researching during the day.

I am not sure how lawyers seem to miss the importance of a good night’s sleep, but we do. Having been in law now for around 7 years, I can’t say I have met too many experienced practitioners who seem to sleep well.  I more often than not hear, “I sleep around 3-4 hours a night, and if I can’t sleep I go into the office”.

It’s no secret that getting a good night’s sleep is a key factor to physical and mental health.  But now studies show that not having any holidays links back to sleepless nights. 

Trick three: short breaks – mini holidays

When you’re working long days for a long period of time, short breaks are crucial. They give you something to look forward to, which is actually proven to increase your productivity and focus.

When I started in practice, I was too scared to step away from the office for anything longer than a week or so. In all honesty, I knew how competitive it was out there for a job, and I didn’t want to step away giving anyone else a chance to step into my role.  However, I quickly figured out that if I didn’t find time for a few short breaks here and there, I was going to burn out. Especially after I started my masters degree.

Having short breaks has some serious benefits including:

  • improved sleeping;
  • increased productivity; 
  • better focus; and
  • less stress and depression.

There is still a strong mindset that law graduates and early career lawyers should be in the office all the time – first up in the morning until late at night.  And don’t even think about leaving until your boss leaves.

The thing is – it doesn’t have to be like that anymore.  Computers, precedents and electronic processing and workflows means we are spending less than a third of the time doing things in comparison to 20 years ago.

As professionals in this i-generation there are things we can learn from the traditional mindset. However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that the brain switches off after so many hours, and if you keep those excessive hours up, you start to burn out. In fact, there are studies that say if you work 11 hours a day or more , you’re 2.5 times more susceptible to depression.

As early career lawyers, we fall straight into that bracket.

What’s the trick to planning your short breaks?

This is the easy part!

Get online and look at when the public holidays are in advance.  Combine your leave with the public holidays to maximise your time off.  For example, the Easter weekend gives you a Friday and Monday off.  If you take time off either side, you end up with 9 days break and only taking 4 days leave.

A lot of people forget to do this, which means the public holidays creep up on them and they don’t even know the day off is coming.

Over the past couple of years, looking at the calendar early has meant I’ve been able to do a solid amount of travel, to Bali (twice), Hong Kong, a bit of China, New Zealand, North Queensland (a number of times) and Thailand.   Hands down, I would have to say that the best short break was to the Whitsunday’s where I got to travel round on a seaplane for a day with Air Whitsunday and go snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.

Don’t forget to share, and subscribe for a special offer in our email updates!