4 Ways Lawyers Can Be Happier People

What tools do lawyers have in their toolbox to reduce stress and promote happiness?

On NW Sidebar attorney Kristina Larry offers up her top four secrets to happiness in the legal profession:

  • Do some good
  • Rethink billing
  • Strike out on your own
  • Care for yourself

Helping Others

Adding more to your plate is not, at first blush, the most appealing solution to feeling stressed.  But Larry makes some good points in her article, key among them: “Pro bono cases offer a chance to get away from what you normally do and you’ll get the chance to truly help someone, which can be very rewarding.”

If volunteering is a viable option for you, learn more about pro bono opportunities here.  Another choice is to channel volunteering efforts toward the profession.  The Oregon State Bar and other groups have many such opportunities, but the most diverse might be those offered through the Multnomah Bar Association.

Ditching the Hourly Ball and Chain

As a stress management tool, I couldn’t agree more.

Because deviating from the strict hourly billing model begins with writing a hybrid fee agreement, check out The Five C’s of Hybrid Fee Agreements.  From there, Google “alternative billing practices for lawyers” or “alternative fee arrangements” to find the many blog posts and articles on this topic.

Time to Transition to Solo Practice?

If working in a firm isn’t a good fit for you, solo practice may be.  How can you explore the pros and cons of sole proprietorship?

OAAP and PMA services are free and confidential.

Caring for Yourself

Taking care of yourself is BIG piece of the puzzle when it comes to managing stress. The OAAP provides free, confidential one-on-one help to all Oregon lawyers and law students.

Self care is also addressed in the CLEs listed below.  These programs are completely FREE to Oregon lawyers.  Locate one or more of these CLEs by selecting CLE > Past CLE on the PLF website.

  • Riding the Waves of Life in the Law
  • Strategies for Balancing Work and the Rest of Your Life
  • Stress Hardiness for Lawyers and Judges
  • Taking Care of Ourselves (While We’re Busy Taking Care of Others)
  • Transitions: Challenge or Opportunity?
  • What Lawyers and Judges need to Know About COMPASSION FATIGUE and the Strategies to Prevent It
  • Work and Worth: Navigating Your Way in the Profession

Sometimes stress can be traced to other issues going on in a lawyer’s life – struggling with student loans or debt, technology overtaking our lives, feelings of being overwhelmed by work/lack of organization, or family pressures.  CLE resources are available on these topics as well:

CLEs Relating to Student Loans, Debt, or Money Issues

  • Money Matters
  • Navigating Student Loan Repayment Options

CLEs Relating to Technology Over-Consumption and Organization

  • Legal Productivity: Responsible Connectivity – How NOT to Be Consumed by Technology
  • Leveraging Technology to Effectively Manage Your Law Practice
  • Reducing the Pressure
  • Road to Office Organization Series

CLEs Relating to Family Pressures

  • Enjoying Parenting
  • Gambling: A Family Matter
  • Kids and Drugs: What Parents Need to Know
  • Meeting the Needs of Aging Parents
  • What Can You Do When Someone In Your Family Experiences Depression, Anxiety, or other Health Issues

Final Thoughts about Happiness and Stress Management

Don’t overlook humor as a stress-fighting tool:

Research shows that laughter makes people happier, healthier, and more successful. Humor is also a neglected workplace tool. It diffuses tension, builds
rapport, and motivates workers. Humor wields enormous positive influence over people, making them feel more relaxed and comfortable. Humor Your Way to Happiness,Health, and Success.

Take stress hardiness seriously.  It is possible to become more resilient through the three C’s: challenge, commitment, and control.  These concepts are at the core of the Stress Hardiness CLE referenced above, and you can learn more by ordering this free program from the PLF website.  For an overview, see Building Stress Hardiness and check out the many other articles written about stress, available on the OAAP website.  On the In Sight page, select the link to view an index of articles from previous issues, then search the PDF for articles related to “stress” or “happiness.”

All Rights Reserved [2015] Beverly Michaelis

Oregon Pro Bono Student Network

Are you a law student who wants to get experience working on cases?  Or  lawyer who needs help on a pro bono matter?  Sign up with the Oregon Pro Bono Student Network:

The Oregon State Bar Pro Bono Committee, Lewis and Clark Law School, the University of Oregon School of Law and Willamette University College of Law have partnered together to help Oregon attorneys connect with students from the state’s three law schools to help with pro bono work. Attorneys receive capable assistance that allows the attorneys to offer more complex legal services for free. Law students receive an opportunity to gain real-world experience while helping the underprivileged obtain desperately needed legal services. Together, attorneys and law students are working to pass on the commitment to pro bono and to ensure that no one in Oregon lacks a voice in the legal system.

Lawyers fill out a brief questionnaire describing the pro bono project, identifying the area of law, and specifying the skills and experience needed (first, second, or third year student, LLM or JD.)  Students are instructed to apply by email, phone, fax or mail with specified materials (letter/email of interest, resume, references, writing sample, or other).  An application deadline is set and the supervising lawyer must certify the work to be done is being handled on a pro bono basis and involves work of a legal nature. 

The Oregon Pro Bono Student Network is a win-win-win: 

  • Clients receive badly needed pro bono services
  • Lawyers receive the support they need in delivering pro bono services
  • Students gain real-world experience.

Kudos to the Oregon State Bar Pro Bono Committee for establishing this network!

Copyright 2011 Beverly Michaelis