Practicing law can be one of the busiest and most stressful jobs out there, and it can be hard to balance the demands of running a solo practice. Lawyers will often find themselves overworked and overcommitted, but figuring out how to stay afloat without going crazy can be difficult. It is always tempting to agree to serve on one more board, attend one more conference, take on one more client, even if these commitments become drains on our time and resources. Use these tips to help regain some sanity in your practice:
Don’t practice law you don’t enjoy
Remember what your original passion was, and why you got into law in the first place. Lawyers will often find, years down the road, that the law they are practicing has become that of necessity or habit. You will enjoy your work more if you work on things you find interesting.
Fire clients who do not pay
It can be difficult to bring oneself to fire a client, but always remember that your relationship needs to work both ways. You are providing a service to the client, but they need to hold up their end of the bargain, too. If a client is not paying for your services, fire them. Be ethical about it – do not drop a client in the middle of a trial, for example – but make it clear that you expect both sides of your contract to be honored.
Fire clients you do not like
This can be even harder than firing delinquent clients, but it is fair to expect that you can enjoy working with your clients. If you find yourself representing someone who is a pain to work with, let them know. If you have a client who’s phone calls you avoid, who makes you cringe every time you meet with them, then maybe you are not the best person to represent them.
Give yourself breaks
It may seem like there are never enough hours in the day, but make sure to give yourself time off. We are more productive when we have given ourselves time to relax and recharge. Take your lunch outside and read a book, not a case file. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while and catch up. Have a dinner date with your spouse. Take a nap. Do the dishes. Work out. Watch a movie. Close your email at 6pm and turn off your phone on the weekend. Being available to your clients and working hard are important things, but so is making sure you are fulfilled beyond your career. Don’t let your practice rule your life.
Be willing to say no
Streamlining your practice will help relieve stress, but make sure you don’t turn around and overload yourself with projects again. Understand what your limits are – on your time and your ability to be a good lawyer to the clients you do accept. You don’t need to take on every new client who calls. Staying balanced and in control will help you be a better lawyer across the board, and that cultivating that reputation will ensure that you stay busy without going crazy.