Latest Newsletter

Our latest newsletter for lawyers covers stress, sources of support and how to manage firms and departments to reduce it. It can be found on our website here (opens in new window).


Is Being a Perfectionist Perfect?

Some people really are perfectionists. It is not necessarily an easy life. For one thing it can be very stressful, both in the amount of work involved and in the reaction to not achieving perfection. They can feel overwhelmed.

Should I ever have brain surgery, I am rather keen on a surgeon who is a perfectionist. The result is of the greatest importance. Perfection though is not always necessary, nor even desirable.

Take the chef who insists on the finest and most exotic ingredients for every dish, and for each dish to be unique. That may take the food outside the price range of the restaurant, and the time involved in preparation may limit the number of customers served. More importantly, it may not be what customers want. Steak and chips can be a valid preference, and quality then consists of delivering that well.

If you are a perfectionist, it is worth working out when “good enough” is good enough, particularly in relation to what your audience requires. Finding out what your boss and/or your clients require is a good start. Tailor your actions accordingly. None of this of course justifies sloppiness, but instead a commitment to delivering the quality that is appropriate.



Too Fond of Fire Fighting?

Executives and entrepreneurs often complain that they spend so much time fighting fires that they have no time for strategy. This can be a cause of stress.

The suggestion that fire fighters are more likely to be arsonists than the general population is an urban myth (although some such arsonists do exist, such as John Leonard Orr). Few in business go that far. However, some business people thrive on fighting fires – it is when they really come alive, and can be heroes!

This creates problems. Indeed fire fighting takes up time better spent on the strategic issues that are the real job of the executive or entrepreneur. And if people thrive on fires, they may make less effort to avoid them (even if they do not set them alight).

The first question is “who should deal with the fire?” Very often this should be someone lower down the organisation, freeing up the boss’s time. It may be part of their job description, and it may of course be that they can solve the issue quicker that the boss.

More importantly, if there is a pattern of fires that pattern needs to be addressed. If the chip pan keeps catching fire, most people change the way they fry chips, or move to oven chips. So why not use the same principle at work?

As always, fell free to contact us to discuss this or any other issue.

Law Is Second-Most Sleep-Deprived Profession, US Survey Finds

Via the ABA here.

Admittedly, lack of sleep leads to decreased resilience, which leads to more stress, which leads to sleep deprivation. That said, the figures given do not support panic.

Lawyers sleep, on average, a whole minute less than the police, two less than medics and three less than economists, social workers and programmers. Even those getting most sleep (loggers) only had twenty minutes more.

That said, getting a decent night’s sleep sets a good foundation to a healthy life, so if you need to change your sleep habits, there is no time like the present! Some ideas here.




Long Hours may be Hazardous

From the Wall Street Journal.

A study by the University of Southern California on investment bankers found that they started out energetic and enthused, and remained so for the first 2 years, despite working 80 to 120 hours per week. However by year 4 many were showing both physical and mental symptoms. These ranged from addiction to Crohn’s disease.

By year 6, there were 2 groups. The majority still pursued the same lifestyle. The remaining 40% began to take better care of themselves, improving their sleep and eating patterns.

Investment bankers face particular pressures, particularly in the present climate, but lawyers are also known for working long hours. I have known several who have suffered health problems as a result. So there are lessons to be learned.

One of my previous bosses had a concept of “shovel leaning time” as a result of watching men dig a hole in frozen ground. We all need a period of catching our breath during work time. That can, of course, be work related but unstressful, such as tidying the desk. Or go off to make some coffee.


Snookered by Work Life Balance?

Half asleep this morning I switched on the radio to hear that snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan was concerned about his work life balance. This is connected to the fact that he recently became a father (and may also be related to his well publicised battle with depression).

The reaction of snooker’s governing body was that he was entitled to choose which tournaments to play, but that as the number of tournaments increases he might slip down the rankings. (5 new tournaments in China alone).

So far, so good. He is neither employed nor a mother, so there can be no suggestions of being confined to the “Mommy Track”. Is this not an illustration of the fact that choices have consequences?


Managing Stress

The latest CIPD/SimplyHealth survey on absence management shows that the leading cause of long-term sickness absence in the UK is stress.

There is potentially a long post on the avoidance and management of stress, but this is not it. Instead, I want to make two points around the fact that stress comes from the interaction a particular personality with a particular set of circumstances.

The first is that some people are simply in the wrong job. For example, an introvert may be able to cope with a people facing job in the short or even medium term, but may find it stressful in the end. Managers need to know their staff, and get them to play to their strengths. Personality tests can help, but active listening and observation also have a part to play.

The second is that sometimes managers make life worse. This is not as such an issue of bullying or harassment (though that can be stressful) but one of management. The way that work is organised (or disorganised)  can have an effect, again particularly if it clashes with the worker’s personality. Thus lack of practical support for getting work done, or lack of clarity on what is req, active listeninguired can increase stress.

This is a particular issue in the legal profession, since it is demanding, and lawyers have traditionally had limited management training. And most legal managers have the same professional demands as their professional staff, and have little time for observation and reflection.