Whether you are a young Lawyer looking at the next stage of your career or a seasoned Partner, all of the following questions may help you with stress management now and in the future. Feel free to pass them on to junior team members or use the questions for coaching.
Managing clients’ changing emotions and responding to them
Understanding and setting boundaries in this area can be important. Some clients will have an emotional response to a situation or outcome and sometimes just letting them offload can be a release for them. What is happening to you during this time?
Ask yourself these questions:
How close are your personal attachments to the client?
How much do they affect your home life?
How is this affecting your stress levels?
Do you want to set boundaries for the timing of calls?
What does the relationship with your client mean to you and them?
Is there a growing dependence on you from them? Is your relationship becoming more than Lawyer/ client? Are you happy with this?
How much will your emotional involvement affect objective decision making for your client?
It can be a good idea to set boundaries and make the decision about how much you are willing to take on outside of working hours, also HOW you communicate (email/ WhatsApp/ WeChat), at the start of each client relationship. This may also be on a client by client basis.
An empathetic response can be key in this area to build rapport with your client, but also have the ability to take a step back from the emotion yourself and look at a situation objectively. This may be important to manage expectations for your client and your own stress levels.
Balancing leadership with practising law
Some people like to be hands-on and practice law. Some want to become a leader of Lawyers. Some would like to do both. Before you make decisions about taking on a Partnership or driving yourself up to the next level, whatever that may look like ask yourself the following questions:
What do I really love about my job?
What do I hate doing?
Will moving into a leadership role work well with my loves and hates?
If you are already in a leadership role and are balancing that leadership commitment to your team members and practising law as well, think about any tasks you can delegate where possible to allow yourself time for both effectively, as small as that might be. Writing down a time analysis of what you do on a weekly/ monthly basis and working out any areas for delegation, increased effectiveness or even exploring taking on another team member can help.
Great leaders have the ability to see and fill the gaps where they are not so effective in order to ensure they have a high performing team.
Letting go of the concept of being a leader of people can be just important and liberating. Especially when we are children, our parents may have instilled into us that in order to be a success, we need to be a leader, this can be challenging to move forward from. Think about what really satisfies you and makes you happy. This may be getting on with practising law and not aspiring to be a great leader.
Balancing family commitments with work commitments
The hours for a lawyer can be long. This can be a challenge especially when there is a financial commitment to pay for schooling and other family expenses, a commitment to being a great family member, and also fulfilling your commitment to your company. Questions you can ask yourself to help move forward when you think there may be an imbalance or you are “stuck”:
What is the most important thing to me right now?
What is impossible for me to change?
What can I change?
What do I need to do to take a step forward and make that change?
Do I need to do this now, or can I give myself time to reassess and then make a decision?
Who can I speak to help me move forward?
Remember sometimes a decision does not have to be made now, sometimes you may feel that you need to speak to someone who is ideally independent of your circle of friends and can be completely unbiased. Sometimes there may be a need to sit where you are, but giving yourself an end date or a date to start to make a change can be liberating, and help you to start to plan and move forward.
Managing changes in the environment
Covid-19, technology, remote working, have all initiated a change in thinking and actions for many people and organisations. As human beings, we are being forced (like it or not) into a more agile way of thinking, especially with technological implementation across all industries. Being agile means looking at how we do things, and finding out if there is a different/ better way. Testing this and then making further improvements (Diagram below).
The most future-focused, up to date and effective organisations are now implementing agile methodologies wherever possible.
Many of us are also wired to resist change when it comes. If there is an impending change coming up, ask yourself the following questions:
How do the long term benefits outweigh the potential short term pain?
How painful is the short term pain? Is it as bad as I think it is? Am I making something out of nothing because of my own bias against change?
What are the advantages of carrying out the journey through change? What will I/ we learn from this?
How can I flip this change, mentally, into a project I and others can also learn from for the future?
Self-care is important as well. If you are feeling overwhelmed, overstressed or a partner/ close friend is highlighting behavioural changes that might not seem so healthy, start to take a deep dive into the above areas. Notice where you may be able to make changes to help yourself and as a result, the people around you.
Caroline Langston is the Co-Founder of Successful Consultants Ltd, an Executive, Personal and Career Development Coaching company in Hong Kong and New York. She is also the Founder of recruitersgiveback.org a registered charity providing free information and coaching to people who are unemployed. Caroline is dedicated to coaching people for success and happiness in their careers and lives. She is degree qualified with a Certificate in Professional Coaching Mastery from the ICF, Certificate in Team Coaching from the EMCC. Also further certifications in Neuro Linguistic Programming at Master Practitioner and Coach level. www.successCL.com www.recruitersgiveback.org