Most of the time that I dare venture into what is going on in the world, I am overcome with dread, fear, and worry. Years ago, I made a concerted effort to severely minimize the amount of “news” I encounter through radio, podcasts, TV, or social media. I am by no means burying my head in the sand, but I have to protect my peace and mental health and not carry the weight of the world by myself or transfer it to my marriage and kids. I also don’t want to be led by fear and worry when I make decisions at work.
How does someone make more work decisions that aren’t based on worry and fear? You know the type of things that cause worry in your practice:
- A potential client (who indicated that they were ready) ghosts you after you spent time talking with them during a successful consultation and working on a proposal.
- Your latest hire turns out to be a dud and now you have to figure out whether to keep them or bless and release them.
- You are not making the revenue you need to sustain your practice long-term and don’t know what else to do or how to get out of a tenuous situation.
I use those specific examples because I have been there in my practice. I love the good times associated with running a law firm, but in reality, l have experienced the fear and dread associated with the uncertain periods of running a practice. In my worst moments, these feelings manifest in sleepless nights, panic attacks, doubting myself, and feeling like a failure and fraud. I have sought professional help for these very real issues and found ways to cope. I won’t go into the details of what to do to take care of yourself, drum up business, or even change your marketing strategies. Instead, I want to affirm you and let you know that you are not alone.
Most lawyers by nature (and nurture) want to put their best foot forward and present in a way that shows they have it all together and are capable, no matter what. The truth is that none of us has it all together. Many of us struggle with crippling anxiety, fear of financial commitments (golden handcuffs), depression, and/or suicidal ideations. It’s hard to keep your head above water in our polarized cultural and political environment. Because I am not a licensed mental health professional, I encourage you to find help and support in your situation. It will be okay. Don’t feel isolated or alone. You are worthy of good things.
As lawyers, I believe it is our responsibility to remove the veneer of perfection that contributes to so much fear, anxiety, and worry in our profession. Where appropriate, start (or continue) to share your fallibility as a lawyer. It helps to humanize you and lowers the unreachable standards that are sometimes lauded in the profession. Thankfully, I think the next generation of lawyers is no longer beholden to the unhealthy ways our profession has defined success. Specifically, work hours without boundaries, billing requirements, earnings, alcoholism, etc. I can’t wait to see what changes come from transparency and innovative ways of working in this profession.
Are you coping with stress and worry? Do you need help? If you are depressed, experiencing a hard time, need to talk, or are thinking about suicide, dial 988, which is the new national suicide and crisis lifeline in the United States. 988 provides 24/7 free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Counselors are available to listen and support you through difficult times.
Iffy Ibekwe is an estate planning attorney and evangelist for intergenerational wealth transfer with effective wills and trusts. Iffy is a prolific speaker and she is writing her first book on culturally competent estate planning, available in 2024 (prayers up!). She graduated from The University of Texas School of Law and has practiced law for over 16 years. Iffy can be reached by email at email@example.com, on her website, and on Instagram at @iffyibekweesq.