Using Your Inner Compass to Navigate Uncertainty and Change

Michelle Niemeyer
To navigate a boat from point A to point B, you need to know where you are now, and you need to know the direction to get to your destination.

To navigate a boat from point A to point B, you need to know where you are now, and you need to know the direction to get to your destination.

gaspr13 via iStock

Lawyer Assistance Programs provide confidential services and support to judges, lawyers and law students who are facing substance use disorders or mental health issues. If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, contact your state or local LAP.

The COVID-19 pandemic has flipped our lives upside down. Schools closed, and parents became at-home virtual teaching monitors. Most lawyers started working remotely, and many still haven’t returned to their offices. Courts stopped hearing cases unless civil liberties were involved. Remote depositions and hearings became the norm. If you didn’t already know what Zoom was, now you know it and use it for office conferences, webinars, family gatherings, and virtual happy hours. Pay cuts and layoffs are news in every legal publication. The pandemic and related regulations have gutted the economy in most communities, and so many clients can’t pay their bills and aren’t investing in new legal work. Colleagues, staff, and family members may be sick or even may have died.

No one knows when it will end. You are probably wondering, “Will my job be here next month? Next year?” “When will my kids go back to school?” “What happens if my best clients go bankrupt?” “How do I take care of my staff?” “What should I do now?” To say that our future, as individual lawyers and as an industry, is uncertain is an understatement. The only certainties are that nothing is certain, and change is everywhere. Likely, there will never be a return to “normal,” at least not exactly as we knew it.

Couple that uncertainty with other challenges that the lawyer population faces as a statistical matter. As a group, we lawyers have almost twice the likelihood of becoming alcoholics as similarly educated professionals. We have high levels of anxiety and depression as compared with the general population. We are also more likely to have a fixed mindset, which could make it harder for us to cope with change.

Stress, anyone? So what do we do?

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