Avoid Family Law Burnout
Cassandra Kelleher
Cassandra Kelleher is chair of the ABA Young Lawyers Division Family Law Committee and can be contacted at cassiemaekelleher@hotmail.com.
Family law is both a rewarding and challenging field. Clients tend to seek assistance from family law attorneys when their lives are in crisis, and most family law cases center on intense emotional issues, such as divorce, adultery, domestic violence, child abuse, and child custody. Although the rewards for helping families in crisis are many, the stress of practicing family law often leads to burnout.
You can avoid family law burnout by taking a proactive approach to your practice and using the following tips:
1. Create a balance in your life. This may be easier said than done. We all feel the pressure to advance our careers and to make enough money to pay our bills; however, work and money are not everything in life, and stretching yourself too thin can have negative results for both you and your clients. No matter how many demands are placed on you, always remember to schedule time for yourself each day to do something fun or relaxing away from work. Put forth the effort to maintain a strong network of friends and family.
2. Explore non-litigation alternatives. Mediation, settlement, and collaborative divorce can be less contentious alternatives to traditional litigation that often better meet the needs of clients. If non-litigation alternatives are available and appropriate for your client, they can have the added benefit of reducing stress on both you and your client.
3. Know when to say “no” to a case. If possible, decline to take on a new case when you know your plate is already full. You will be able to devote more time to your current clients and avoid added stress. Also, consider declining a case when a client has unrealistic goals or seems to be overly demanding of your time.
4. Do not excessively personalize a case. This is especially important in the family law field, where cases often center on clients’ personal tragedies. Although it may be appropriate to identify with a client, young lawyers should avoid excessive emotional entanglement in a case. As attorneys, it is our job to zealously represent our clients and act in their best interests. Excessive emotional investment in a case may detrimentally affect the outcome and create undue stress.
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