I’m all over this!!

Losing interest in your work is a risky business…

We regularly come across this condition. It isn’t about the perfectly normal Monday morning sigh of exasperation, or the occasional blow up after a matter goes wrong. These things come and go. No – here we are talking existential.

Think of a Principal who every day wakes up and thinks I just can’t do this anymore.

This isn’t just about pre-retirement senior lawyers who have simply had enough. We see many financially successful young Principals moving into a there has to be more to life than this phase quite early in their careers.

When we recently reviewed many LSC/ QCAT cases for our core CLE training, it was clear reading between the lines that many respondents were people utterly tuned out and/or preoccupied elsewhere with little thought for the professional consequences… including delay, lost opportunity, conflict, failure to communicate and financial mismanagement.

How and why seemingly well paid professionals mentally turn off is an enduring subject of research. Are lawyers unique? Absolutely not. Imagine a dentist suddenly deciding that he’s stared into his last ever after-lunch, garlic, red wine and infected mouth. Who would want to be his next patient?

So how can we deal with this?  The first step is symptom recognition. This is no easy task. The legal profession doesn’t naturally do weakness all that well. If you find yourself habitually not wanting to go to work, not thinking about your files, extending bring-ups and avoiding phone calls, not recording time, and leaving the office for extended (non-work) periods, then you almost certainly have a problem. If this is happening, talk to your husband/ wife/ partner if you can. This isn’t easy either. The conversation may be totally inconsistent with the person they want you to be. Alternatively, it could be highly supportive.

There are a number of other approaches. Talk with a Partner you feel you can trust. Talk confidentially with one of the QLS Senior Counsellors. Call Lawcare.

In many cases, after the opportunity of sharing your problem with others, you may decide that it isn’t existential at all, but situational – something you can work through with some help. Alternatively, you may (as an example only) resolve to sell the practice, but take steps in the interim to ensure it remains under control. There are many possibilities. Hopefully through the process you will better appreciate how your situation potentially impacts clients and others. And you can at least temporarily refocus and manage the risks.

I’m over all this! is a very real condition.  If you identify with the symptoms, don’t ignore them. They may be passing or they may be terminal. You won’t know until you explore them with others. And regardless of where that takes you, there’ll be a much lower chance of your own reputation going up in flames.

Published: Queensland Law Society – Proctor, May 2016

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