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Health is a hot topic in the legal industry. More and more Biglaw firms are paying attention (and company resources) to help inspire their attorneys to live healthier lifestyles. Although health is a broad concept in the modern workplace, in this article we will go over some ideas of how to be a healthy legal professional. (This article does not include medical advice. It’s always best to consult your doctor for any recommendations.)
There’s no shortcut for this one; exercise is a part of any healthy lifestyle. Using your muscles and elevating your heart rate is essential to your daily overall health. The trick to exercising is finding an activity you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be yoga, or jogging or team sports. It can be anything that helps you move. Another big misconception about exercise is that you need to set aside time to do it, or that you even have to be in a designated place to workout. As lawyers, it’s difficult to find time for our personal life as it is. However, because we are experts on process, we can use that expertise to figure out the best way to exercise during the workday. Perhaps you can find 5 minutes to stretch at your desk or go for a walk around the block before a meeting a couple of times a day. The point here is to create a habit of seeing an opportunity to move and taking it.
Also, unpopular opinion: your physical exercise should take precedence over clients’ needs sometimes. This can be incredibly hard to understand, especially for attorneys who are just starting their careers but reminding yourself that it’s okay to allow a certain amount of unavailability during the day to focus on your health is beneficial for everyone. Your health helps you to continue to do your job well.
Treat Food Like Fuel
It’s incredibly easy to slip into unhealthy eating habits with a stressful job. However, this manifests; too much junk food or caffeine or not enough nutrients/food altogether - it’s still going to have an adverse effect. Because everyone is different (and I’m not a nutritionist), I won’t go into detail about what makes a diet healthy, but there are some healthy mindsets you can use to guide your eating habits:
Think of food as fuel. It makes it possible for us to go about our day, propelling our thoughts and actions. The better quality fuel we ingest, the more energy we have to do what we need to do during the day. Take a bit of time to research the ingredients in your go-to snacks, and learn to cook for yourself instead of takeout. Understand how your productivity or attitude is effected when you indulge in quick, processed meals. If you frequently have long days at the office, perhaps you should incorporate a meal-prepping schedule to help you be at your healthiest during the workweek. Bottom line: be more conscientious about what you ingest.
Mediation and Deep Breathing
With any stressful legal job, it’s always beneficial to take time out of your day to manage that stress. It’s easy to go to an old vice or try to soldier on through your day, but this is not healthy or helpful to you or your practice.
There’s no philosophical prerequisite to understanding the benefits of deep breathing. If you’re new to meditation and want to try it out, there are plenty of apps you can use throughout your day which allow for guided 1- 20-minute meditations designed to reset your mindset and focus on breathing before you start your next task. The benefits of breathing deeply are far-reaching:
Breathing allows you to have an often necessary reset to your attitude or approach. As a lawyer, our whole day revolves around making informed decisions, so building this into your daily practice will help establish internal tools to help you do your best.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself at your job is to leave it for a while each day. Many healthy lawyers (especially those in remote positions) know that setting aside time to unplug entirely from your work and cultivate your personal life can be both a healthy and savvy choice.
It’s important to know that sticking to your boundaries won’t be agreeable to everyone you work with. By taking time out for yourself, you are preventing potential burnout, and allowing yourself to engage in other healthy activities. If you are having trouble finding the time each day to do so, you can try putting time on your calendar to designate breaks.
I know you’ve heard this before, but it’s worth stating again: healthy people do not abuse alcohol and don’t need it in order to have a good time. Having a healthy relationship with alcohol is subjective. If you are drinking during the workday, drinking to unwind at the end of your workday, or falling asleep intoxicated during the week, you may need to reevaluate your imbibing habits.
Alcohol can be a big part of the legal industry, but understanding your own healthy limits is necessary. Even at cocktail parties, client dinners, summer associate events, you can still choose to limit your drinking. No one has the right to tell you what to drink.
As with other aspects of your health, it’s important to contact an organization that can help you be your healthiest. If you feel you might have a drinking problem or just want an expert’s advice, you can use this list of resources to call an anonymous hotline start.
Burnout, having recently been designated a condition, can be very common in the legal industry. It is characterized by losing energy and motivation if overworked. It can be a tricky condition to spot, but it’s essential to know the signs:
Understand your limits and check-in with yourself regularly to know when you need to recharge, so you can prevent burnout from happening. Because burnout is so common in Biglaw, it’s important to understand that it’s not normal and should not be a part of your professional life.
Ask for Help
You might have noticed a lot of these healthy habits are not possible to do by yourself. It’s important within your legal job to have mentors and a manager who understands your goals and helps you progress. This is the same for improving your health.
Despite an overall unhealthy industry culture, cultivating a large support network is the best thing you can do for yourself; personally and professionally. Take some time to confide in a colleague or friend about your goals and ask them for regular check-ins. You can hold each other accountable for your progress and ultimately become the healthiest version of yourselves.