Motivating attorneys

It’s all about self-belief…

Another Teams call, another argument with opposing counsel, another consult with client. Meeting after meeting after meeting – all the talking almost sounding a little bit like blah-blah-blah“Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth” sounding about right, right about now.

And somewhere in-between all of that, you need to get some work done, need to rake in those billable hours. But those hours are passing by so slllloooooo-wly….. Has the clock stopped? 

Being able to work from home has taken the constant schlepping around out of the equation. But that just means that there is more time to work. And work you do. Kind of like hard working Geppetto. But unlike Disney’s character you are not “gleefully spending the majority of your time working on unique creations”. It’s not that kind of story. Unfortunately. 

There are so many “another’s” in your life that the days seem to seep slowly into one another. “Same ol’ same ol’” you think “gleefully” to yourself. But as you say that you realise that there is a constant grey monotony, a heavy grey cloud hanging over you. 

And it’s looking a lot like rain. 

It’s no joke!

“It’ so depressing”. You think to yourself. And it is. Because you are working harder but enjoying your work far less. 

And to top it all off, you have seemingly become the only source of advice and counsel for absolutely anything and everything remotely legal related – from clients to family to friends just asking for your “quick opinion on something”. It has become increasingly hard to just say “No”. So, you give, and you give until there is nothing more to give – like an empty vessel. 

You are quite literally, Running on Empty”

It’s what you do, isn’t it? Give advice? But it’s starting to feel a bit like a burden. 

“Funny”, whilst others ask of you freely, you find it hard to ask others for help. Maybe it’s because you know how it feels. So, instead of speaking up, you keep mum hoping your feelings of resentment, of discord, of utter exhaustion will just go away (all by themselves). 

“Morning” I say. “Shh,” She says. “If you don’t acknowledge it, maybe it will go away”Veronica Roth 

But it’s not that simple. And there is a nagging memory of someone once telling you “You cannot pour from an empty cup. You need to take care of yourself first”. “They” were right. If only it were that easy. 

Even your body language has changed. Your shoulders are hunched over. You walk around with your eyes firmly focused on the ground in front of you. You wouldn’t be able to “see the forest for the trees” if you tried – you actually need to look up for that. The weight of the world is firmly on your shoulders. You can literally feel it. And its far heavier than that 16kg kettlebell you have been swinging around in the hopes that you will regain some fitness after being somewhat inactive over the last two years.  

Wow, what has happened to you?

A once perfectly content human being you have turned into the lead character of the Three Days Grace – Misery Loves My Company music video. And regardless of your music tastes – that’s not a compliment. 

You look pale, you have bags under your eyes and the corners of your lips are doing the opposite of what the Joker’s do – “Why so serious” you think to yourself? Ironically.  

Burnt-out? It’s possible. We are all feeling a little like that at the moment. Depressed? It’s also very possible. According to the WHO – there has been a “25% increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide”. 

But it’s then – as you look into the mirror – that you realise the one thing that has got you so misshapen. You have lost your mojo. Your motivation. Your oomph. Your joie de vivre.

Does that even happen to attorneys? The losing your mojo thing? Aren’t you meant to be “infallible” and “above it all?” Firstly, that’s rubbish. Attorneys are humans too (after all) and do succumb to the odd slumps here and there. Just read the article The Legal Sector Has a Very Real Mental Health problem for proof that you are not alone in feeling so…… out of kilter

Whether you were called to the legal profession because of an inherent love of the Law deep inside you, or you fell into it because you were simply good at it – Feeling like you need to “refill your cup” is very normal.  And should not be “shrugged off”. 

The biggest challenge is how you will lift yourself up out of your ditch of despair. How will you get your mojo back? 

How can attorneys (get) stay motivated?

We may not be mental health experts – therefore any “advice” we give must not be taken for or misinterpreted to be mental health advice.  

But with the tips outlined below, we hope that we can help get you motivated (a state we hope will continue long after the article ends). 

Therefore, without further ado (and with reference to Staying motivated as an independent lawyer, How Lawyers Can Boost Their Motivation At Any Time and Motivation: The Key to Standing Out as a Lawyer) – 

1.     Treat your work like a new project every day – remind yourself of your goals, the reasons behind undertaking the matter and then consider the best way to tackle it – with a renewed vigour and hope every day;

2.     Smile – smiling reduces stress and anxiety levels (even if it’s just a fake smile – the “fake it til you make it” analogy). And just by practising smiling, eventually you will start to feel it inside and that will (in turn) lead you to enjoy your work more (or so the theory goes);

3.     Strike a pose – a “power pose” that is. “Sitting with an open, expansive posture can increase testosterone and decrease cortisol levels, thereby increasing a feeling of power and tolerance for risk and complicated tasks”;

4.     Take it one small step at a time – there is a saying “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time” that comes to mind. So, even with your super large matters, break your work down into “bite-sized chunks”, seeing each task as a small achievable and measurable goal;

5.     Remember the bigger picture – be very specific with your plans to achieve your broader goal. Look at it from both a failure and success point of view. By doing so, you will have realistic expectations for what you are setting out to accomplish;

6.     Collaboratestop, collaborate and listen (that music video alone should put a smile on your dial). On a serious note, working with others, taking pride in the project together and forming a close knitted team can do wonders for all round motivation;

7.     Get some technological help– automation is a huge part of “easing the load” ensuring that you are always working optimally, predictability and accurately in the most crucial aspects of your practice. And AJS can help you there with their wide array of products;

8.     Take care of your health – sometimes its easier said than done but putting your health on your list of priorities is the absolute best thing you can do for yourself (and for your motivation). Try your best to eat right, get some exercise in and get enough sleep (so, so important to get some rest) so you have enough energy to tackle the tough stuff as and when you need to; 

9.     Congratulate yourself when you reach a goal – celebrate all your goals. Even the small ones. An achievement is an achievement no matter the scope and reach. “Congratulating yourself and enjoying successes lets you create a chemical footprint of motivation that makes you feel valued and encourages you when facing obstacles”.

10.  Focus on your posture – it may sound so pedestrian, so unimportant, but your body can tell when you are feeling good about yourself. When you are feeling proud, everting your eyes away from the ground and looking beyond, your body can feel that change in stance and positivity. Try sitting or standing upright with your shoulders back, head raised and smiling. Happiness will radiate out of you, creating positive energy and therefore encouraging motivation;

11.  Roll with the punches – change is inevitable. We all know that. By acknowledging and accepting change, you are able to both acknowledge and accept (in turn) that not all your goals are achievable. And that acceptance helps you focus on the things that are in your power. And that is a very freeing exercise;

12.  Have self-belief – self-belief (and therefore being self-motivated) comes from within. It’s the feeling that “you got this” come what may. In turn it “maintains your behaviours in line with the goals you have set” for yourself. This positive energy is, quite clearly, connected to your emotions. How you feel, both about yourself and the situations around you. Having self-belief and being self-motivated is “like a muscle: train it regularly and it will activate when needed, while reducing the risk of injury”, and lastly 

13.  Get a cat (or a dog) – or whatever. The unconditional love of a pet is both irreplaceable and undeniable. Sure, not everyone can own an animal. Sometime finances and living circumstances don’t allow for this. But you can take time to volunteer at an animal shelter if need be. Be unconditionally there for someone or something else. Give love and be open to receive it. This may sound “touchy feely” but the act of giving and receiving an unconditional love, volunteering your time for nothing in return – being there for someone, can fill your heart with peace and will help you find the motivation you need to find your smile again.

Ø  For more articles (and advice) on lawyers (and just plain old human beings) being motivated (and staying motivated), read Motivate Me: What To Do When You’ve Lost Your Mojo! and Finding Motivation At 40 (not matter your age, it will help – promise). 

Sure, being motivated, whether you are an attorney or in any other profession, is hard. It takes work. It takes effort. And that can sometimes be overwhelming. And if it is, seek guidance and get help. The days of suffering in silence are long gone! 

Maybe our 13 ways to get motivated will work for you and maybe they won’t. But it’s a start.

And a start is good. 

But if it’s more motivation you need (nothing wrong with an extra dose), these may help you along – 

“Believe in yourself. You are braver than you think, more talented than you know, and capable of more than you imagine.” – Roy T. Bennet

“Whatever you do, always give a 100%. Unless you are donating blood” – Bill Murray

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily” – Zig Ziglar

“If you’re going through hell, keep going” – Winston Churchill

“So long as your desire to explore is greater than your desire to not screw up, you’re on the right track” – Ed Helms

– Written by Alicia Koch on behalf of AJS.


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