Lawyers Concerns: Take a step back when stress of job, life loom

Issue January 2004

Q:As a fifth-year associate in a large Boston firm, I need to make a critical decision about whether to pursue the partnership track. Although the money I make is a real plus, the stress is really getting to me. I am sick and tired of working endless hours, making any kind of healthy balance virtually impossible. The situation is further exacerbated by my elderly parents, whose care is primarily my responsibility, and I'm not getting much support from my wife. Although I apparently look OK to others, I'm not sleeping, have lost weight and have begun taking medications for blood pressure and anxiety attacks. Can you help me?


A:First of all, you are not alone. People come to LCL all the time with a similar constellation of concerns.

Begin by looking at ways you might be contributing to your own stress levels. Are you setting limits and delegating tasks where possible? On the other hand, are you eating poorly, giving up exercise time, drinking or over-using medication to take the edge off? While you have little control over the facts of the situation, your response to them is largely self-determined.

People caught in your circumstances often feel overwhelmed and defeated; that is why a support network is so important. If your wife cannot offer much support at present, you will have to seek it from friends. (If there is a longstanding barrier to mutual support, marital counseling might clarify what underlies that problem.)

The question about partnership track calls for examining the pros and cons of what the firm offers you, and how that compares with alternatives that might be more aligned with your interests. The salary, and the reality that most other options will not match it, is what often keeps people in a holding pattern.

You would be well served by stepping back and looking at the big picture, including an analysis of your work, family, financial and personal needs. The next step might be to brainstorm your options, avoiding impulsive decisions. You probably won't be surprised to hear that we consider this an ideal time to speak to a clinician (at LCL or elsewhere), to help you take stock and develop plans that you can live with.


Questions quoted are either actual letters/emails or paraphrased and disguised concerns expressed by individuals seeking assistance from LCL.


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