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First Week at the Firm: How to Deal With Stress

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on June 01, 2015 10:03 AM

Welcome to "First Week at the Firm," a new FindLaw feature for beginning associates, focused on helping you navigate the transition into firm life. We hope you'll enjoy this new series and come back regularly for more insider tips.

You've made it to the promised land of a BigLaw job. There's the important clients, the handsome pay, and the respect of your peers. And there's stress. So much, never ending, unceasing stress.

Don't worry, every decent lawyer faces stress at the beginning of their careers. And the in middle. And near the end. But you can deal with it. Here's some tips:

Work Better, Not More

Those looming deadlines will seem a little less ominous when you're working as efficiently as you can. Take a step back and look at your work habits. Are you spending too much time on research? Not maximizing your billable hours? Forgetting that you have legal secretaries and paralegals to rely on? Making the most of your time is one of the best ways to take some weight off your shoulders.

Take a Deep Breath and Relax

While the partner you report to may want you to think that everything you do is the most important, urgent matter in the world, it's not. Don't get fixated on minor matters and if you feel yourself being overwhelmed, breathe deeply and relax.

Try Yoga, Cycling, Weightlifting -- Even Crossfit!

Exercise is a great stress reliever. The blast of endorphins you get from a good workout not only gives you more energy in the long run, it can help you return to work, or life, with renewed focus. It's also a great way to keep off the "Firm 15" -- the weight people often gain when long days at the office and endless company snacks replace their normal routines. So, get on the treadmill to relieve your stress. Consider taking classes or getting a personal trainer to optimize your time.

Try the Talking Cure

Most firms' insurance plans will cover the cost of a therapist, who can be invaluable in helping you manage stress and deal with challenges in your life. Since lawyers are some of the most depressed professionals, a little therapy can be of use even when you're not feeling stressed.

Monitor Its Effects on Your Life

As you begin working at a firm, be mindful of the stress you're feeling and how it's impacting your life. Follow the above advice to help deal with general stress, but think of taking specific actions to address its impacts. Losing touch with your friends? Take a break once a day to call and catch up. No time for old hobbies? Force yourself to ignore work for a few hours and engage in something rewarding. Work 14 hour days, come home, drink a martini in the dark and cry yourself to sleep? Consider scaling back -- a lot.

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