Holiday Stress

You may feel there’s nothing you can do about stress.
The bills won’t stop coming, there will never be more
hours in the day, and your work and family responsibilities
will always be demanding. However, you have more
control over stress than you might think. No matter how
stressful your life seems, you can take steps to relieve
the pressure and regain balance.

Sage words from the March 2017 issue of InSight. Since the holidays can be an especially stressful time, consider taking a time out to evaluate how the four stress management strategies discussed in this article might work for you.

  • Download the “Stress Relief Toolbox” provided by the authors.  As they suggest, it’s not a bad idea to use one of these tools every day.  Don’t wait for stress to build up.
  • If you’re a list-maker, using the “Stress Management Self-Help Checklist” may appeal to you.  It’s a good way to stay on track and remind yourself of the importance of managing stress as part of your overall health.
  • Last, but not least: if you’re trying to get a handle on the stressors in your life, consider keeping a “Stress Journal.”

For specific advice on how to cope with holiday expectations and holiday-related stress, review these articles from the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program:

All Rights Reserved 2017 Beverly Michaelis

Time Off and Avoiding Burnout

Feeling weary, fatigued, overwhelmed, or stressed?  Working continually without rest or relaxation leads to burnout.  And it takes more than the occasional three-day weekend for your mind and body to recuperate.

This is my annual reminder to get serious. Build vacation plans into your work schedule now – no excuses!  It will take a bit of effort and planning, but your body and mind will thank you.

I Can’t Afford It

2013-07-26 08.04.33“If I’m not at the office, I can’t bill.  If I can’t bill, I won’t get paid.”  True enough, but there is a solution:  budget for your vacation.  A bit of research and number crunching is in order here. First, calculate your vacation expenses. This should be relatively easy.  Next, quantify the lost revenue you need to replace during your time out of the office.  Now that you know how much you need, begin setting aside funds every week to meet your financial goal.  If necessary, find little ways to cut back that can really add up: like bringing your lunch to work, deferring your daily Starbucks fix, using public transportation, or telecommuting.  Saving weekly will keep you on track and help manage expectations. If you’re just getting started, then your plans this year may be more modest.  Next year, you can begin saving for your summer vacation in January.

I’m Too Busy

2013-12-23 20.09.48Work will never go away, but I guarantee that if you look ahead in your calendar you will find a block of time with no commitments.  Even if you haven’t made plans yet, block the time out now before your calendar fills up.  If you have a habit of backsliding, enlist your family as enforcers.  This time should be sacred.  If you need an extra incentive, consider non-refundable travel reservations.

Preparation is Key

If you’re a member of a firm, going on vacation is a matter of meeting with other lawyers who will be covering cases during your absence.

If you are a sole practitioner, use the buddy system.  Find a colleague who is experienced in your practice area and willing to cover for you.

This arrangement is usually reciprocal and is helpful if you have an unexpected absence from the office due to injury or a medical condition.

Get a game plan in place:

  • 2013-07-24 17.03.57Notify clients, opposing counsel, judges, or other appropriate parties that you will be out of the office;
  • Prep your files.  They should be well-organized and current, with status memos so your buddy can easily step in if needed;
  • Create a “Countdown Schedule.”  Identify what needs to be done when and whether certain tasks can wait until your return;
  • Allow for wind down.  As your vacation approaches, leave time in your schedule to finish up last minute work.  Reduce or refer out new matters;
  • Train staff.  Do they have a clear understanding of office procedures?  How will they screen client calls during your absence?  Give them parameters for contacting you or your buddy in the event of an emergency.
  • Resist constantly checking voice mail, e-mail, or text messages.  Technology is a God-send, but part of rejuvenation is taking a break from our instant Internet society. Checking in is okay, but stick to a schedule to avoid obsessing over what is going on back at the office.  Remember – you have an emergency plan in place.  If something happens, staff or your buddy will get a hold of you.
  • Avoid post-vacation overload.  Just as you blocked out dates to go on vacation, allow yourself time to get back up-to-speed.  Otherwise, you’re right back where you started.

Give yourself and your family a well-deserved break.  With a bit of organization, you can budget for (and enjoy) your time off.

All Rights Reserved 2017 Beverly Michaelis

Balancing the Roles of Lawyer and Caregiver

If you are balancing a law practice while caring for an adult family member, you are not alone:

  • 44.4 million Americans age 18 or older are providing unpaid care to an adult.
  • The average length of caregiving is 4.3 years, wcalthough some people spend many more years in a caregiving role.
  • Almost 60% of all caregivers either work or have worked while providing care.  Sixty-two percent have had to make adjustments to their work life.
  • Many caregivers fulfill multiple roles.  Most caregivers are married or living with a partner (62%), and most have worked and juggled caregiving at the same time (74%).
  • The most frequently reported unmet needs of caregivers are finding time for themselves (35%), managing emotional and physical stress (29%), and balancing work and family responsibilities (29%).

These sobering statistics are featured in the March issue of In Sight, published by the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP).

How do Caregivers Cope? 

With information, help, and resources.  All three are addressed in the current issue of In Sight.  Articles include:

One of the best resources is the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program.  The OAAP provides free and confidential support to lawyers who are balancing work and caregiving.

Making Adjustments to Your Law Practice

Many years ago I met a lawyer who contacted the PLF for help after experiencing a series of legal malpractice claims.  The lawyer had missed deadlines, failed to appear in court, and made mistakes in document preparation.  During our meeting I learned he was caring for his elderly parents.  Nearly every day he was called out of the office to retrieve a prescription, take care of an incident at his parent’s home, or drive his mother or father to the doctor.  Keeping a regular work schedule in the midst of this chaos seemed impossible.  Winding down the practice was not an option – his family needed the income.  The solution?  He closed his office on Fridays.  New and existing clients were informed of the office hours.  The lawyer also explained his strategy to health providers, obtaining their cooperation in scheduling regular medical visits on Fridays.  He was fortunate to practice in a smaller legal community where colleagues, opposing counsel, and the court were understanding.  The final secret to his success was a full-time legal secretary.

Not all lawyers are as fortunate as the one described above.  You may practice in a large, sprawling community where few lawyers know one another and bench-bar relations are nonexistent.  Hiring a full-time legal secretary?  Sounds great, if you have the money.  No matter what the circumstances may be, there are always options.  If you are a lawyer in Oregon struggling with caregiving and lawyering, contact the OAAP and the PLF.  The OAAP can provide emotional support and personal assistance.  A practice management advisor can help you strategize about how to adjust the scope of your practice.  Both services are free and confidential.

All Rights Reserved 2013 Beverly Michaelis