As a lawyer, you’ve dedicated yourself to the high-stakes world of law, where every case or transaction demands your undivided attention, and every client expects unyielding commitment. Yet, amid this endless whirlwind of briefs, court dates, signings, closings, and negotiations, one crucial element often remains overlooked—your health and wellness.

As an associate, it often feels like your career requires that you are constantly on and can’t take any time for yourself. As you progress in your career, prioritizing work over yourself can become a habit.

It’s important to remember that your career is a marathon, not a sprint, and the journey is demanding, so you’ll have to manage it. 

Health and Wellness constitute one of the six pillars of a balanced legal career; even when you are under the gavel to get work done, you must pay attention to it. In this post, I cover strategies to support your health and well-being to ensure a successful, satisfying, and healthier legal career for you and your clients over the long-term

Having a balanced legal career does not mean you must change everything simultaneously. 

Your career is a marathon, not a sprint; the key to making it successful is to treat yourself like an athlete. Physically, this means getting sleep, eating a healthier diet, and exercising most days. 

It also means pacing yourself: it’s the cumulation of the small decisions you make that add up. The 0.1s of an hour you can put into your career over time are what make a difference. A week of healthy eating is not as meaningful over time as years of healthier eating. 

Hazards of the legal profession

Law is a tough career. It’s engaging, interesting, meaningful, and hugely rewarding, but also a tough profession. And lawyers are typically not people who do things halfway; we’ve always gotten good grades in school and brought that work ethic to our work. 

It is easy to prioritize our careers over ourselves. As a result, according to the American Bar Association, many lawyers end up with severe health and wellness issues. Here are some striking statistics from their website: 

There are many more numbers, and the actual numbers vary based on which study you read, but all suggest that the legal profession is stressful.

Health and Wellness throughout your career

A legal career has a definite arc to it. You start as an associate working long hours, and if you succeed, you end your career engaging with clients and prospects while others do the work. 

As an associate, all you have to offer the firm and clients is time. You don’t have the network, the experience, or the clout to determine what work you do or when. Being an associate doesn’t mean that you can do nothing for your health and well-being, but your options are more limited, and you may need to be more intentional about it. 

As your career progresses through mid-career and then to partner, your clout changes. Based on your early career efforts, you gain experience, a reputation, and a network of contacts who see you as their attorney and engage you consistently. 

Now that you bring in the business, you have more to offer than time; you trade on your expertise and connections. This gives you more power over your career, making it easier for you to set boundaries. 

So, part of maintaining your health and wellness is developing that book of business. 

Regardless of where you are in your career, though, there are steps you can take to improve your health and wellness. 

What you can do at any point in your career to improve your health and wellness. 

Get some exercise – even a little exercise.

A daily visit to the gym may be unrealistic, but a recent study showed that just 150 minutes of exercise a week could have a significant impact. Every 0.1 you can put into your health will help and will add up. 

Make some time for a walk during the day, get an exercise bike, and ride it for a few minutes in the morning while catching up on headlines. Walk to the printer, take the stairs, and find ways to build movement into your daily routines. 

Ten minutes of walking here and there, going up and down stairs, and a few minutes on an exercise bike all add up. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint; you don’t have to be a gym rat to get a bit of exercise. 

Eat better

Healthy eating often takes longer and requires more thought than the ever-present greasy fast food and high-calorie snacks. 

But it is doable. Some simple everyday steps you can take: 

  • Choose the salad over fries
  • stop by the grocery store (on the walk you take at lunch to get more exercise), and pick up some fruit.
  • Try carrot sticks instead of chips as a mid-day snack

Dinner meetings and late nights will happen, so pay attention to what you order. I know one professional who made it a rule to never eat dessert at business dinners because he was going to many business dinners and eating a lot of desserts. Making a rule for himself helped. What rules can you make?

You can also hire people to do the cooking and prep work for you. 

Eating healthier doesn’t have to be complicated; you know what is healthy and what isn’t; start with minor changes and build from there.  

Not every meal will be healthy, but isn’t one more healthy meal a week better than none?

Permit yourself to relax

Sometimes, we need permission to relax.

Taking work with you is easy, but sometimes you must shut down. Even associates need to step away from work for a while; there are many examples throughout the legal world of amazing first-year associates who didn’t make it past the second year because they burned out.

When you’re not working, permit yourself to relax.

Make time for social connection

Social connections are vital to humans.

Social connections outside of the law firm are essential to lawyers.

Not socializing at all can lead to depression and feeling disconnected, and if you only socialize with people in the law firm, you know what you will talk about… work. Also, developing deep, meaningful connections inside a work environment can take more work and be riskier. 

Happy, healthy relationships act as a support network and can increase your overall quality of life. 

Get screened

Take the time to visit the doctor, the dentist, or the therapist.

Get the colonoscopy or mammogram that you have been putting off. Get your checkup. A small investment of time and discomfort now can save you a lot of time, pain, and suffering in the future.  

It may seem like a lot of time to go to the doctor today, but the impact of not going and falling ill is worse for you, your clients, and even your firm.    

Get help

One advantage that lawyers have is we earn well. So use some of that money to buy help. 

  • Have someone make healthy meals for you.
  • Hire a trainer for more effective workouts and built-in accountability. 
  • Have someone else do the cleaning. 
  • Get a personal admin to take care of all the little chores that take away from the things you enjoy. 

Hiring others to help you can be a great way to claw back time that you can use to take care of yourself. 

Putting it all together

As an associate, your focus has to be on the small things that add up over time. As your career progresses, your focus can move toward taking control of your time and using your clout to make space for health and wellness. 

Your well-being is one of the few irreplaceable things in life, so permit yourself to focus on it. 

As you progress to rainmaker, your needs may change, and your firm may not fit you anymore. If that’s the case, we can help. 

There is an exact right perfect-fit firm out there that will allow you to take care of your health and wellness the way you prefer. If you’d like some advice on how to manage your career where you are or understand the opportunities to find the right firm, let’s talk. I’m here to help you.