As a licensed attorney, Alex Petraglia emphasizes the importance of both excellence in the courtroom and emphasis on mental health. Lawyers must understand that the legal sector is demanding and ever-changing. To be a successful lawyer, it’s crucial to develop resilience, so you’re more engaged, productive, and ultimately better equipped to help your clients.
The Stress of Practicing Law
Deadlines, long hours, client demands, high stakes cases, the ever-changing nature of legislation—practicing law can be extremely, acutely stressful at times. Simply bearing the burden of helping a client and knowing that their fate is in your hands overwhelms even the best of lawyers at the most competitive firms.
It doesn’t help that, in most cases, there isn’t much middle ground. A courtroom pits two lawyers against each other. You either come out on top…or you don’t.
Frequent losses can take an incredible toll on a lawyer’s mental health and confidence. To practice law successfully, lawyers need to understand that the always dressed-to-impress and unshakable confidence of television lawyers is a complete and utter misconception. There will be stress and lots of it.
The Most Important Characteristic of a Good Lawyer
To add to the ever-mounting pressure of (especially high-profile) legal action, many of the qualities that seem built into the “lawyer type,” such as perfectionism and pessimism, can bring about further psychological distress.
You’re told early on in law school that you must know everything about every topic in legislation. This breeds doubt within many lawyers, a great deal of whom are already naturally self-critical, type-a personalities. Furthermore, because proper law training means always being on the lookout for the worst outcome or potential fallout, perfectionism compounded by pessimism causes major stress and difficulty in some lawyers.
Many future and working lawyers ask themselves, “is it possible to overcome the stress, perfectionism, and pessimism that seems built into the job description?”
The answer is yes. Resilience is the most important characteristic of a good lawyer. Practicing law is difficult, and lawyers need bouncebackability!
Developing Resilience in a Demanding Profession
Practicing lawyers must also practice self-care. Good nutrition and exercise are essential to keeping your head above water. Also, maintaining positive self-talk is vital to your mental wellbeing and will impact your endurance as a lawyer.
Hire a nutritionist and a personal trainer, if you can. They know clients are busy, and they’ll likely be happy to find a schedule that suits your availability. As for self-talk, if you wouldn’t say it to a friend, try your best not to say it to yourself.
Turn “I Need to Be Perfect” into “I Need to Be Effective”
Perfection is the enemy of progress. If you’re constantly stuck on the details, you cannot see the bigger picture. Instead of nitpicking about your own performance, find ways you can still achieve excellence (not perfection) with processes that do the same amount of work in less time (i.e., efficiency).
Turn “I’m Too Tired/Busy/Stressed to See Others” into “I Will Get Energy Through Socializing”
People often think that you need to give up your social life if you’re dedicated to your job. To have one, you cannot have the other. However, this is not true.
Finding balance in your work and social life will make you stronger and more resilient in the long run. Being with others allows you to take time away from stress and return to work refreshed. Additionally, strong relationships offer a means of emotional support for when you are having a hard time and need someone to talk to about it.
Being resilient doesn’t mean facing everything alone; it means finding places and people in your life that you pull strength from when your own is depleted.
Turn “This Is a Horrible Situation” into “This Is an Opportunity to Grow and Succeed”
Easier said than done. However, telling yourself that a stressful situation is a means by which you can grow is how to turn a bad situation into a challenge. And if you got all the way through law school, there is something in you that truly appreciates a challenge.
Overcoming obstacles will either teach you something or else remind you that you are competent and strong. Both are successes in their own right!
Resilience and Success
The courtroom can feel like a battlefield. Mental preparation is essential to your personal success as well as to your success on behalf of your client.
If true confidence seems out of reach, or if you’re struggling with mental health, therapy and professional help may be useful to you.
A Resilient Mindset in Practice
Alex Petraglia currently works at Deters Law Office, where he has participated in medical malpractice trials, class action suits, and successful wrongful injury settlements. He is devoted to protecting his clients’ health, wealth, and liberty with great passion and enthusiasm.
Petraglia has strong interpersonal skills and solid experience investigating cases through interviews and site visits. When he’s not working, Alexander enjoys hiking with his dog and volunteering with stray animal adoption programs and local food pantries.
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