Being a litigator can be very stressful and time consuming. It’s not for everyone. In my experience, very few lawyers are suited to being true trial lawyers. It can be a very rewarding area of law, and can be a lot of fun. However, it can also be heartbreaking with extreme lows and an incredible amount of intense work, stress and fear. Many lawyers go into law because they saw TV shows in which litigators were the stars. It’s the type of law everyone associates with being a lawyer.
If you are a litigator and feel burned out much of the time, it may be time to do some honest soul searching. Just because you have done something for years and even decades does not mean you have to continue doing the same thing. Even if you are a winning trial lawyer and your peers admire you, only you know whether your career is giving you the kind of joy you deserve.
If you feel burned out on litigation, do some guided reflection. Have you had thoughts for many years that you might like to transition into doing something else? Have you talked to anyone about it? Are you afraid to admit it to yourself because you believe that to choose another area of law or another profession is admitting you made a giant mistake by becoming a litigator (or lawyer) in the first place?
It doesn’t have to be that way. A good first step is to talk to someone and admit the truth, whatever the truth is. You may have to reflect deeply to even recognize the truth. The truth may be that you enjoy parts of litigation but you need to be more selective in the cases you take and more liberal in the work you delegate. Perhaps adjustments in your marketing strategy or hiring a key employee can help. Maybe you can work on your mindset, for instance your degree of accepting that jurors, judges and witnesses are out of your control. Working on your mindset can help many aspects of litigation burnout.
If, after reflection and talking to a coach, mentor or confidant, you decide that you want to pursue further the possibility of getting out of litigation, it is important to write out a plan. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but start writing about what you want to do and how you will do it. Who will you enlist to help you? What other areas of law or other professions will you consider and why?
If, after a fair amount of reflection and writing, you are convinced its the right decision, commit and make the change. Get your mindset right so that its an enjoyable challenge, and move forward with your new plan. You only live once, so make the most of it! If you are doing something you know you don’t enjoy, try something else that you think is a better fit. You owe this to yourself. Everyone needs help, so don’t be afraid to enlist people who can give you support and good guidance.