With any new career opportunity there will always be challenges that are initially unforeseen. For the legal career world, it is (correctly) assumed to be highly time consuming and warrants a certain amount of sacrifice when it comes to achieving success. Here are some of the greatest challenges and stresses that many do not consider when they embark on becoming a lawyer whether in a small or large law firm:
Heavy workload & Tight deadlines
The most obvious challenge for lawyers is that they often work long hours and have heavy workloads that can often lead to burnout and high levels of stress. Contributing to this is that lawyers are often working under tight deadlines and other requests, and the pressure to meet these deadlines can become overwhelming. When preparing for trials or trying to meet other requirements for a case, there can be many hours of work that are unforeseen.
High stakes & High expectations
In the day-to-day world of a lawyer – clients, colleagues, and judges often have high expectations of you, which can often be stressful and challenging to meet them all. The outcomes of legal cases can have significant consequences for clients, which can create a high-stress environment for everyone involved. Many cases deal with high-stakes situations, difficult clients, and complex legal issues and lawyers are often under pressure to win cases for their clients, which can cause additional stress and anxiety on top of simply preparing. Add to that the fact that law firms often place a significant emphasis on billable hours, which ties into the above point and creates further pressure to work long hours and bill as much time as possible.
Emotional toll & Balancing work and personal life
The unspoken aspect of being a lawyer is often dealing with clients who are going through difficult and emotional situations, which can take a toll on your own emotional well-being. There could be difficult cases and outcomes that have real repercussions for all involved which can be emotionally demanding on a day-to-day basis. Lawyers are often exposed to clients who are going through tough times, such as divorce, bankruptcy, or criminal charges which can lead to compassion fatigue. This also means that the demands of a legal career can make it challenging to maintain a healthy work-life balance, which can create stress in your home and burnout in general. Just keep in mind that many lawyers struggle with finding a balance between their work and personal life.
Ethical dilemmas, Competition, and Professional Development
Lastly, something that is also overlooked is that lawyers are often faced with ethical dilemmas that can be stressful to navigate and make decisions about. For example, this can be as simple as lawyers balancing their duty to their clients with their duty to the court, or dealing with specific clients who want them to engage in unethical behavior. Add to this the fact that a legal profession in general can be highly competitive, which can create stress and pressure to perform at a high level or lose clients to another lawyer. This can put pressure on lawyers to continue their education and stay up to date with changes in the law, which can be time-consuming and stressful as well. Tied to this is the fact that lawyers will often have high student loan debt and may feel pressure to bill a certain number of hours to make a living or continue their education.
Overall, being a lawyer can be a rewarding career, but it can also come with significant personal challenges. This does not mean that the negatives outweigh the positives, simply that these are factors that one must consider extremely carefully when deciding on a legal profession.