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High-level lawyers are experiencing unprecedented work burnout, and the struggle to maintain a work-life balance is a major factor behind it. Unfortunately, achieving a work-life balance as a lawyer is easier said than done, especially in a profession that constantly demands your time, attention, and skill. You might have trouble prioritizing yourself or setting boundaries, or you may not even realize you’re burnt out, as symptoms can manifest in other areas of your life.

Knowing the signs of burnout can help you preserve your quality of life.1 If you’re experiencing lawyer burnout, you may:

  • Experience emotional and physical fatigue
  • Have trouble concentrating
  • Begin to feel negative about your work
  • Feel overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, depressed, or hopeless
  • Suffer from a reduction in compassion and effectiveness at your job
  • Contemplate abusing substances

Read on as we discuss how lawyers can maintain a healthy balance between work and the rest of life.

Tip 1: Setting Clear, Realistic Boundaries

It’s hard to put your foot down and establish boundaries at a job for which you feel a high level of personal responsibility. Despite the difficulty, this is one of the most crucial points of creating a sustainable attorney work-life balance.

You can set your boundaries in different ways, but some of the skills you may need include:

  • Knowing when to say no
  • Learning how to prioritize your work
  • Establishing clear working hours

This is a good start on your path to setting up a clearer divide between your personal and work life.2

When Should You Say ‘No’ to a Request?

For many people in the legal industry, it’s second nature to say yes when someone asks you to take on a task, regardless of how busy you are on other high-priority projects.

If someone asks you to take on another task and you already feel stretched too thin, learn how to say no. This isn’t a sign that you aren’t a team player or that you don’t respect your colleagues. It’s a sign that you know your limits and won’t stress yourself to the point of causing your work quality to drop.

Prioritizing Your Work

It is important to take the time to assess which projects and tasks are your highest priority at any moment. Once you’ve prioritized all of your active projects and assignments, it will be easier for you to devote the majority of your time and effort toward those matters that are highest on your list of priorities. Setting these priorities may involve having some honest conversations with colleagues and supervisors about your workload, but with practice you will see the benefits of this more proactive and practical approach.

Tip 2: Prioritize Self-Care

Your physical and mental health can tie directly into how you perform professionally. In short, the more tired and worn out you are, the more the quality of your work may suffer.3 This may cause your reputation to suffer, too.

To keep your mental wellness and physical health at its best, prioritize self-care wherever possible. Self-care can look different for everyone, but can include:

  • Incorporating breaks This doesn’t just apply to breaks during your workday, but also vacation periods and holidays. Don’t take your work with you on your time off. Be firm about your plan to disconnect and make sure proper coverage is in place before you depart.  This way, you can focus on relaxing, resting, and doing things unrelated to your work.
  • Pursuing personal interests – If work takes up most of your life, you’re more likely to head toward burnout sooner rather than later. To avoid this, cultivate interests and hobbies that you can enjoy in your free time.
  • Spending time with loved ones – When you spend all your time working, you can forget the importance of socializing. Remember to spend time with friends and family or a significant other. Date nights, meals out, or even going on a short excursion to the theater or a theme park over the weekend can do you a lot of good.

By putting your all into relaxing, winding down, and taking care of yourself, you can also put your all into your work when you’re on the clock.

Tip 3: Cultivate Efficient Time Management

Cultivating good time management skills can help you identify the areas of your work habits that are lacking and implement new strategies to combat these issues. When you’re first building newer and more effective time management skills, you can focus on a few tricks:

  • Time blocks Creating dedicated time blocks can help you to focus. For example, you may want to set a time block for planning, a block for handling certain work tasks, a block for meetings, and so on. This way, everything has its place and you won’t feel as overwhelmed.
  • Delegation This is especially hard for individuals who like managing and handling everything independently, but it’s a crucial skill to learn. Figure out the tasks you can trust to others and find people you know will carry them out correctly.
  • Productivity tools – Don’t be afraid to lean on technology to help enhance productivity and streamline certain processes in your office. For example, you can set up automation systems for email blasts and alerts to clients, which gives you back the time you’d otherwise spend drafting and sending those messages.

Learning where and when to implement these tools can save you time and trouble, reducing burnout risks.

Tip 4: Seek Professional Guidance

Of course, if you find yourself especially struggling, you can always call in the professionals. Career coaching services and counselors exist to help you get things straightened out, and law firm mentoring can set you on the right track.

Have you ever wondered if your job provides the right attorney work-life balance? Do you struggle to maintain a healthy divide between work and free time? If you find yourself questioning whether or not you should remain in your current role, consider legal recruitment services to ensure you can find the perfect fit.

Tip 5: Exploring Career Paths - In-House vs. Law Firms

When contemplating your legal career path, it's essential to understand in-house vs. law firm roles. Both roles offer their unique advantages, and it’s entirely subjective for you to discover which role may be better suited long-term to your career growth and goals.

As an in-house lawyer, you may find yourself more equipped with: 

  • Work-life balance and stability 
  • Multidimensional career track 
  • Opportunity to support the same client
  • Salary and benefits based on specialization

Alternatively, if you pursue a role at a law firm, you’ll be provided with:

  • Exposure to additional resources and support staff
  • Exceptional legal training and access to legal experts
  • Distinct career advancement opportunities
  • Opportunity to directly impact business revenue

Tip 6: Love Your Job

After all of the schooling, drive, and hard work that it takes to become a lawyer at a firm or company, you want to love what you do! Keeping a burning passion for work allows employees to find easy work-life integration rather than worrying about striking a hard-to-define balance.

Of course, the aforementioned tips still apply even in the event that you love your job. After all, love alone can’t sustain your energy indefinitely. 

You can also find new ways within your work to love what you do. This can include:

  • Finding new sources of intellectual stimulation
  • Maintaining purpose and passion in your job
  • Making meaningful connections
  • Having interesting collaborations
  • Seeing the impact of your work
  • Gaining recognition and feeling accomplishment for what you’ve done

If you find new, refreshing ways to keep your love and passion for your work alive, then you’ll be able to sustain yourself as you move forward through the years.

Maintain Balance With E.P. Dine

To achieve true long-term success and satisfaction in your work, strike a good lawyer work-life balance. Take vacations and holidays where possible, and disconnect entirely from your work during them. Set hours and stick with them unless absolutely necessary. Don’t let your work consume your life. Accept help when you need it, and seek professional guidance where necessary. Consider your options carefully, and above all, maintain the same love for your work that guided you to your career path.

E.P. Dine is committed to supporting lawyers like you on your journey to strike this careful balance between your personal life and your law careers. We can help you maintain that separation, giving you the time and space to reclaim your life and set your boundaries.

After you start changing to keep a healthy work-life balance, you’ll find that legal work goes by much more smoothly. You won’t have to worry about the stress of heading into burnout and can instead focus on giving your clients your fullest each and every day.


  1. U.S. News. What to Do If You’re Suffering From Lawyer Burnout.
  2. Forbes. Establishing Healthy Boundaries To Help You And Your Employees Thrive.
  3. The New York Times. Avoid Burnout Before You’re Already Burned Out.
  4. Bloomberg Law. What Law Firm Attorneys Should Consider Before Moving In-House.

At E.P. Dine, we are committed to delivering content that is not only relevant and insightful but also rooted in professional integrity and expertise. To achieve this, every article published on the E.P. Dine blog undergoes a meticulous review process by qualified professionals with deep knowledge and experience in the legal field and legal recruitment.

David Walden


As Co-CEO of E.P. Dine and leader of the Law Firm Practice Group, David is a premier legal career strategist and search industry expert to law firm executives and partners throughout the United States. His clients, among the world's finest law firms, engage him when seeking the highest standard of excellence in their search efforts and hiring initiatives.

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