September 3, 2013
Solo and small firm attorneys will attest, sometimes the size of a law firm is inversely correlated with the amount of stress that comes with the territory. A lack of resources, support staff and a competitive and fluctuating marketplace can keep the blood pressure up for attorneys in small practices.
Stress is an inevitable part of work and life but it shouldn’t impact your everyday.
Here are five tips to help you get the stress monkey off your back.
Set up boundaries and stick to them.
As an attorney in a small or solo practice, you want to give your clients the best service possible – the sort of personalized support that they couldn’t get from a larger firm.
Problem is, where do you draw the line it comes to your time? You can’t constantly be on call, even if your clients think you are. The trick is to manage not only client expectations, but also expectations you place on yourself. It’s easy to fall into the trap of long, unmanageable hours because you think it is necessary to stay competitive.
The reality is a healthy life away from work makes for greater productivity during office hours, and ensures your clients receive your full attention.
Get the right administration systems in place.
There’s nothing worse than stressing out over the little things, like filing, documentation and administration. If you don’t have the support staff to help you with keeping your matters organized and documents up to date, it impacts all areas of your practice and stress levels can snowball.
This is where technology can help you save time, costs and keep everyday tasks stress-free. Make sure you’ve got the right practice management software (poorly designed software only adds anxiety and frustration) and use it routinely to help free up your day.
De-clutter your office.
Somewhat related to tip #2. I’ve seen some attorneys desks with mountains of paper and manila folders strewn all over the place. I feel stressed out just thinking about them… in fact, a study commissioned this year found that over half of the respondents who went to work facing a messy desk felt an immediate rise in stress levels. If your office isn’t completely paperless (and let’s face it, whose is?) then maybe it’s time for a bit of a spring clean (out).
Get away from your computer screen.
We all know staring at a screen all day isn’t a particularly healthy pastime, but particularly if you’re going it alone in an office, sometimes it’s hard to find an excuse to get away from your desk.
A desktop background or picture of your favorite national park / beach paradise isn’t much help either apparently.
Make exercise a priority and a habit. Go for a run, hit the gym, or just go for a walk. Anything that gets the blood moving and changes the scenery can help you relax and refocus.
It doesn’t have to be on a lunch break either. Our lead developer Bart goes to the gym every day at 3pm, it’s not as busy and helps keep him fresh in the afternoon when the ability to focus tends to fade.
Connect with other people like you.
Sometimes it helps to blow off a bit of steam to a sympathetic ear. You might find you’re not the only one who’s feeling under the pump.
There are a few places you can hang out with other solo attorneys online and share your experiences. The ABA runs a popular discussion forum called Solo Sez and Solo Practice University is another great place to connect with lawyers young and old. There’s also a growing community of lawyers on Google Plus.