Burnout and depression can plague anyone in a high-stress job. While depression is easier to categorize, professional burnout is a little harder. “While everyone’s symptoms may vary, a common description one might hear is that it is ‘a feeling that I just don’t feel like I can do what needs doing. My creativity is gone, my energy is gone, and it is a burden to do anything.’”
It’s no surprise that lawyers regularly suffer from professional burnout. In fact, the CDC notes that “lawyers are more likely than almost any other type of professional to commit suicide — ranking behind only doctors and dentists — and are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression, a common trigger for suicide. Others deal with poor health due to overwhelming stress.”
Real estate lawyers can be especially hard-hit when it comes to burnout. The practice is fast-paced and incredibly demanding of a lawyer’s time.
“There is no such thing as a “typical” day in real estate practice. . . . Each day varies depending on the type and stage of the transaction being worked on. Long hours and weekends are the norm for lawyers in this practice area in order to complete the diligence, drafting and negotiations required to effectively close transactions for clients.
Moreover, if the lawyer is juggling several closings at once, organization and coordination demands weigh heavily on them as they near closing dates, and one misstep can create a negative cascade effect on the transaction. It is no wonder there are such high burnout and depression rates among lawyers, which can create a vicious circle of failures.
Depression and anxiety “can profoundly affect attorneys’ daily functioning. Irritability, obsessive thoughts, feelings of inadequacy, difficulty concentrating, a sense of worry and impending danger, sleep disturbances, heart palpitations, sweating, fatigue and muscle tension are all side effects of anxiety and depression.
These effects are compounded when the lawyer is faced with overscheduling, contract and filing deadlines and more. Organizational skills are one of the first things to erode when a lawyer is depressed; concentration is paramount in a real estate lawyer’s work day, and when that concentration is damaged, small (and potentially large) calamities can ensue, which can lead to more drastic repercussions, such as malpractice suits.
Thankfully, there are solutions to these problems. The “oxygen mask” example applies here: secure your own oxygen mask before helping others. In other words, take time to take care of yourself and your work will reap the benefits. Find a wellness solution that works for you. Many lawyers find meditation to be useful; it emphasizes focusing on being in the moment instead of “catastrophic” thinking, worrying about worst case scenarios that may or may not happen down the road.
Since it is so easy for a real estate lawyer to get bogged down in the minutiae, another tip is to get yourself better organized with an efficient calendaring system that manages your tasks so you can focus on the larger ticket items on your agenda. It is easy to get lost in the weeds and miss important deadlines. Having good calendaring software will keep you on top of your transactions.
Just remember to breathe deeply.
 Crawford, M. and Querin, D., “Burnout: Avoidable, Not Inevitable,” 38 ABA Law Practice Magazine 3, available at https://www.americanbar.org/publications/law_practice_magazine/2012/may_june/burnout-avoidable-not-inevitable.html.
 “Attorneys Grapple with High Rates of Stress, Burnout,” BusinessWest.com (Dec. 15, 2015), available at http://businesswest.com/blog/attorneys-grapple-with-high-rates-of-stress-burnout/.
 Schwartzberg, J., “10 Things to Know About Real Estate Practice,” Above the Law (Nov. 22, 2016), available at https://abovethelaw.com/2016/11/10-things-to-know-about-real-estate-practice/.
 Gordon, L., “How Lawyers Can Avoid Burnout and Debilitating Anxiety,” ABA Journal (July 2015, available at http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/how_lawyers_can_avoid_burnout_and_debilitating_anxiety.