Stress and burnout illustration

The unbearable heaviness of stress – Lawyers, a profession at risk of burnout

Helping professions such as the legal profession, in particular the area of family law, or healthcare and education, are exposed to a multiplicity of sources of stress that feed a growing sense of unhappiness and dissatisfaction that negatively affects all spheres of life. This webinar aims to explore the causes of the problem and available remedies from the perspective of the legal profession and wellbeing science.

The legal profession, and in particular that of family law lawyers, is a helping profession that typically involves a very intense emotional and relational charge related to the stress and difficult emotions that characterize the personal affairs of its clients.
It is a profession that requires solid technical skills and good personal balance but, these days, many professionals experience a pervasive feeling of irritability, fatigue and dissatisfaction that adds overwhelmingly to the complexity of the work and the already demanding workload.

The pandemic has undoubtedly had a negative impact on the quality and quantity of interpersonal relationships and has contributed to legitimizing an excessive intrusiveness of digital devices in the spaces and moments of private life. However, the causes of the generalized discontent are also to be found in the deteriorating social relations between lawyers and clients, lawyers and other legal professionals, lawyers and society as well as in the lack of adequate training in the human skills that enable individuals to navigate the complexity of daily reality.

Despite a significant increase in stress and its most extreme effect of burnout, it is possible to identify and act on many of their external and internal causes.

The resulting discomfort, if not properly treated, produces effects of psychological, emotional and behavioral degradation that affect not only a lawyer’s quality and the performance at work but also the general his or her level of well-being.
Although a significant increase in stress and its most extreme effect of burnout can be observed in Western countries1F. J. Carod-Artal and C. Vázquez-Cabrera, Burnout Syndrome in an International Setting, in “Burnout for Experts: Prevention in the Context of Living and Working”, Springer (2013) + W. B. Schaufeli, Burnout: A Short Socio-Cultural History, in “Burnout, Fatigue, Exhaustion: An Interdisciplinary Perspective on a Modern Affliction”, Springer (2017)., it is possible to identify and act on many of their external and internal causes2A. S. Troy, F. H. Wilhelm, A. J. Shallcross, and I. B. Mauss, Seeing the Silver Lining: Cognitive Reappraisal Ability Moderates the Relationship Between Stress and Depressive Symptoms, Emotion (2010) + J. T. Buhle et al., Cognitive Reappraisal of Emotion: A Meta-Analysis of Human Neuroimaging Studies, Cerebral Cortex, (2014)..

A webinar to explore the causes and the solutions

I was invited by the Foundation of the Council of the Order of Lawyers of Florence, together with Saveria Ricci Esq., to participate in a webinar coordinated by Maria Silvia Zampetti Esq., to analyze the causes of the problem and the remedies available from the point of view of the legal profession and the science of well-being.

Webinar in Italian with English and French subtitles.

The topics covered are:

  • Why lawyers are so stressed and what factors contribute most to this situation (00:00:00)
  • What is the difference between stress and burnout (00:21:33)
  • The warning signs: burnout symptoms (00:24:46)
  • The exogenous causes of stress: environment and work organization (00:29:33)
  • The endogenous causes of stress: human physiology and the cognitive evaluation of stressors (00:33:00)
  • The common cultural and cognitive biases that prevent the cultivation of well-being (00:50:04)
  • The skills that can be acquired through specific training (00:52:00)
  • Some important working hypotheses on individual and social levels (00:59:20)

Everything analyzed in the webinar on stress and burnout applies equally to all professional fields that require high emotional competence and intense commitment such as health care, education or social support. All professionals struggling to cope with the imbalance between human and professional demands will be able to find adequate answers from it.

I hope the webinar will provide you with useful insights and the opportunity to discover tools to use.

Valentina Dolara

Illustration Getty Images

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