Mental Health and Work/Life Balance

My Dream Job in Law

Last night I worked on a trademark file. It was a disaster. The application had been filed incorrectly and the Trademarks Office had cited a long list of issues and demanded a response 9 years ago. It seems that for some reason no one had looked at the file for quite some time. I needed to figure out if the application was even still alive. It was beyond stressful.

Then I woke up.

A few nights before that had I worked on the transaction from hell. Hours and hours of worrying about problems that were going to delay closing. A difficult client. A jerk on the other side. Time docketed way in excess of the fee estimate.

Then I woke up.

I have been retired for two years now and I frequently dream that I am still practicing law. I have yet to have one pleasant dream about how I spent almost forty years.

Think about that for a minute.

On the positive side, I no longer worry about files during the day. On the other hand, I am still under stress, it is affecting my sleep, and worst of all, there is no one to send a bill to.

I have no idea as to whether other retired lawyers still suffer from the stress of their careers, or whether people in other professions carry this burden after they cease working. I can only imagine that when my mechanic retires, he will not dream about having forgotten to tighten this or that and the car blowing up and killing all of the occupants. But maybe he will. Who knows? Maybe after retirement my surgeon will dream that she botched an operation. Maybe even my operation. Again, who knows?

Which is my point. Shouldn’t someone know? And tell us lawyers? Why did I never once, during my entire career, hear from my law firm, or the Law Society or the Bar Association or someone, about the lingering effects of long-term stress in the legal profession on its members?

Sure, I heard rumblings about increased suicide rates in certain professions, including law. And I heard noise about the rates of addiction in the professions. But it is easy enough for most of us to think that this only affects someone else, such as the mentally compromised, addicts, or dentists. What does it have to do with us?

I imagine that the structural problem with the profession is that if we start talking about these things, someone will want to do something about it, which will require the worst type of change: the type that reduces billings and profits.

Enjoy your days. While you are practicing you may be too exhausted to dream about the profession. But your retirement nights await you.

2 replies on “My Dream Job in Law”

At least these days there seem to be more therapists about and more law firms offer subsidised access to them.

Some of these therapists are even former lawyers who have firsthand experience of the sort of suffering their patients go through!

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