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Corporate Lawyers Are Burning Out

The pandemic has had a toll on the mental health of corporate lawyers, a survey by Gartner finds.

Gartner surveyed 202 corporate lawyers in July 2021 and found that 54% reported that they were ‘exhausted to some degree’ since the pandemic, with 20% reporting that they were ‘highly exhausted.’

“The fact that many corporate lawyers are exhausted is probably not that surprising to legal leaders after the pressures of the pandemic,” James Crocker, senior principal, research in the Gartner Legal & Compliance practice, says in a press release. “But what stands out is the degree to which even moderate levels of exhaustion lead to severely negative outcomes for the individuals themselves, the legal department, and the overall business.”

41% OF ‘HIGHLY EXHAUSTED’ LAWYERS SHOW SIGNS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL DISTRESS

Gartner also evaluated the exhaustion levels of the surveyed corporate lawyers using a modified Bergen burnout inventory, a set of questions commonly used to quantify exhaustion.

Among those who reported being ‘highly exhausted,’ 41% showed signs of psychological distress. 68% reported that they were looking to leave their organization. 61% said that they either frequently delayed , scoped down, or killed projects in which they were evolved.

“The fact that more than two-thirds of highly exhausted lawyers looking to leave the company, and the extent to which even moderate exhaustion is associated with quantifiable psychological distress among corporate lawyers should be a cause for concern for legal leaders,” Crocker says.

“BURNOUT IS A SLOW BUILD WHICH MAKES IT DIFFICULT TO PINPOINT”

People typically do not burn out overnight. Rather, experts say, it’s a slippery slope that needs to be identified early on.

“Burnout is a slow build which makes it difficult to pinpoint,” according to The National Law Review. “This is why it’s important to figure out what stressors will trigger your burnout. Burnout is not a blanket condition for everyone and every lawyer experiences it at different levels/intensities. To pinpoint when burnout is building, lawyers should routinely do a pulse check on themselves and how they’re feeling.”

The pandemic, if anything, has only exacerbated the effect of lawyer burnout. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Though there is much work to be done, one fact is true,” according to The National Law Review.  “Burnout can be avoided if lawyers and the industry as a whole take actionable steps to identify and prevent it.”

Sources: Gartner, The National Law Review

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