Im really struggling. Every day I'm on the verge of a complete mental breakdown. I'm always working, yet I'm always behind on hours. I feel like I'm digging deeper and deeper in the hole with no end in sight. I know firm life is not for me, but I need the money and don't want a gap in my resume. Im thinking I want to go in-house, but it could be a year before the right job comes along. I'm just so tired. I don't know if I can hold out that long. Anyone facing a similar situation or have advice?

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I’ve been there. You are in or on the way to burnout. Delegate what you can and ask for help from the firm if you need to. You don’t want to get to the point where you are missing court imposed deadlines or other hard deadlines. Regardless of whether you live alone or have a family, I recommend you take a weekend and book a room at a local hotel. Take your laptop and a hotspot (if you don’t have a designated hotspot then get one so you can work wherever through a secure connection. It’s worth it for the mobility). Changing up the scenery in this way and removing yourself from distractions while also being able to hop down to the in-hotel restaurant for a quick bite will give you the extra time and allow you to focus. It’s not a long-term solution, but it can help to give your mind a jump start. Seek a career coach who can help you work on efficiency and accountability and help you figure out what you want to do. If you are really struggling mentally then talk to your doctor to see if you may need an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication or other assistance to help improve your mental help.

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My best advice is to not care about hour hours! I’m serious! If you’re already at a point where you’re behind, don’t kill yourself. At my old firm I was always worried but no one ever even talked to me about them. I’m less worried at my current firm but I did get talked to one time, when they were at 100 for the month lol, so, probably warranted. Otherwise I really don’t care at all. I know some people make sure they Bill 8 a day. I never ever think like that: I just do the work i have until 5 (really). On some days I’m like wtf did I do all day, I billed 4 hrs and felt like I worked nonstop. Other days I bill 10-12 bc I’m tied up in substantive litigation tasks. It’s so hard because so many people are struggling with burn out but I do think there’s a middle ground between quitting and firing on all cylinders. Do you work, tell others you don’t have capacity, don’t work weekends, don’t work after 5, turn off notifications, etc. If the only consequence is that maybe someone will talk to you about your hours being low, and maybe, at some point, they’ll fire you for it, but you’re already considering quitting because it’s too overwhelming, you don’t have anything to lose in my POV. Also, I’d take at least a week vacation and then come back and institute these boundaries. Seriously, turning off email notifications will change. Your. Life!

likehelpful

This is great advice. Thank you!

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IN SAME BOAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

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In the same boat as you. Like I feel like I’m always working but my hours don’t reflect how much I work. And also sometimes the anxiety can be overwhelming which immobilize me from billing or focusing on work.

likeuplifting

Spot on 🙌 It's a vicious cycle.

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In the exact same boat—it’s not just you. I’ve only taken 3 days off in the past year (aside from firm holidays) and feel like I can’t take more because I’m so behind on hours. But I need more time off to recover from the burnout. It’s a difficult spot to be in. My philosophy at this point is shifting to just doing what I need to preserve my mental health and, if I lose my job, I lose my job. But I recognize that this philosophy is a privilege (and I’m also having trouble actually adhering to it).

likesmart

Well said, I'm also at the point where im just trying to keep the ball in the air, do what needs to be done, and not let anything drop. But keeping the ball in the air is hard when the water is up to your nose 🌊

likefunny

This is all great advice, thank you so much. Is "burnout" really a thing? I've been a high-achieving perfectionist my whole life (I suppose most lawyers are), which makes my inability to pull myself together all the more puzzling and frustrating. I always thought "burnout" meant being tired, like after a final exam, but it's starting to sound like an actual mental health issue.

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It’s real and a real diagnosis. The only “cure” is real time away from work! I also suggest turning off email notifications and not checking email after 5/6 pm, it Can all wait! Nothing is that serious

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I’m in the same boat. I’m incredibly busy, and I feel like I’m always working but my billing doesn’t reflect that at all. I’m so behind on my hours and have no idea how I can make them up. I worry the partners will think I’m lazy because of it too. It’s also getting harder to stay in top of everything and I’m losing motivation. I took a quick vacation and it didn’t help. I’m actively looking for work outside of a law firm because I’m just not cut from that cloth.

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I’m so sorry. I understand what you’re going through and it’s really tough. I hope you can figure it out. It may just be that you need a new job that won’t affect you so negatively. That’s what I’m hoping for myself anyway. Hang in there.

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I was in the same boat that you are in a year ago. It actually got so bad that I went to see my doctor and he explained to me that burnout is very real and that a lot of his clients (who are attorneys) report feeling the same way. So you are not alone. For me, I knew that the firm I was at was the cause of my burnout. I tried taking a day off here or there or vacations but I found that it didn't help. I lined up a new job for myself but made sure to push the start date out for enough so that I would have an entire month off. An entire month of complete freedom, with no thoughts of "what do I have to do when I come back" or "should i check my email?" I used that month to vacation, road trip, and just be "bored." I also used that month to get my physical health in check. I felt like a new person and when I started my new job, I felt reinvigorated and no longer burnt out.

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I can’t give any advice or contribute here outside of commiseration. You are not alone. This year has been unimaginably difficult. The line between work and home (which was already being tested prior to covid) was trampled over for me 6 months ago and I feel like now there are literally no boundaries and I cannot seem to recover. I wish I had tips or tricks but I don’t. I have seen my ability to prioritize and my efficiency go out the window. I’m forgetting to send emails that have been drafted, missing things when proof reading. I basically feel like I have hit and now truly understand what “burn out” is, and don’t really see an end to my current circumstances. And same story on lack of in-house options. I know it won’t be better to lateral to another firm. But have just been feeling super hopeless too.

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Commiseration is 100% welcome. It just feels good to know we're not alone. Theres a lot of people on this boat 🚢

likehelpful

Sounds like burnout. May want to take a few MHDs

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Take a few days (as many as you can) to give yourself a break. You don’t need to explain this to anyone. Worst case, say you’re sick. Rest and do some things things that you love (order from your favorite restaurant, get a massage, shopping...anything that makes you happy). It sounds like you’re experiencing burnout. Hopefully a mental break will help you stick it out until you find a new role.

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I went through this a couple weeks ago. I still was online, but spent most of my days gardening and playing video games. I’m a better lawyer in the long run for it.

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If I did this I would worry about falling behind on work and that would stress me out more... how did you manage that?

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Go on vacation. Begin therapy. Exercise. Get an RX for Xanax or Clonazepam if you don't have addiction issues.

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If you believe you are on thin ice, maybe it is time to proactively look for a new job. Sometimes a change of scenery and a clean slate is all you need.

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Right there with you! Not having the work/home boundary has been so difficult this past year. I’m working hard to keep some boundaries - for example, even though everyone has my cell number now, I try to not answer it after 5pm, just like I can’t answer my work phone after I’ve left the office for the day. It’s small (though I did ignore 3 calls last night), but reminding myself that no one expects me to answer my work phone after I leave for the day is the equivalent to not answering my cell phone when I finish for the day has been really helpful to my mental health.

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Right there with - this is no way to live. But also what are the options?? So hard not to feel completely hopeless. If the weather is nice where you are try to.go to a park and do some deep breaths ... sometimes it helps me to step away and see people living, hear birds chirping etc

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Following. I am in the exact same boat and I feel like I am on the verge of a heart/panic attack. Hang in there!!

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It’s okay to not be okay. We are with you. All of this advice is top notch. Best of luck to you. You will get through to the other side.

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Check out your state bar’s lawyer assistance program. It is confidential. There are lots of other folks in this boat in the profession. Sending good wishes from someone who has been there.

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I think you're in the overwhelming majority of associates who are feeling some level if burnout. You are by no means alone! And I agree with a lot of the other advice. I would just add that you might want to try to more intentionally set boundaries. There are some at my firm who sign-off at 10pm on weekdays unless there is a live deal. I prefer to protect my mornings from 6-9am, Friday night to Saturday night and Sunday mornings has made a huge difference for me. I'm a capital markets and M&A lawyer, so I can't always keep these boundaries, but adhering to that 95% of the time works for me. Not sure what will work for you, but you just need to do what works for you. Worst case scenario you get fired, which in the current market isn't a big deal since there are so many jobs.

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I’m feeling the same!

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