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ANALYSIS: Lawyers Need to Practice More Self-Care

June 9, 2022, 9:01 AM

Lawyers are spending an average of only 5.6 hours per week on self-care, according to Bloomberg Law’s most recent quarterly Workload & Hours survey, which asked lawyers earlier this year about their workloads and activities in Q4 2021.

This number has remained fairly consistent, with lawyers averaging 5.8 hours and 5.3 hours of self-care per week in the previous two quarters.

The upcoming summer months provide the perfect opportunity for lawyers to step away from their desks and to focus on taking care of themselves.

Women, Senior Associates Put Less Time into Self-Care

Of the responding attorneys, those that identified as female reported an even lower weekly average practicing self-care. Specifically, female respondents reported spending an average of only 4.9 hours per week on self-care, compared to 6.1 for male respondents. Considering that female attorneys experience more mental health issues than their male counterparts, increasing the amount of time women lawyers spend on self-care may be a step in the right direction to address this concern.

There’s no one definition of self-care. The survey used the definition coined by the World Health Organization, but I prefer how the National Institute of Mental Health defines the term, which is “taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health.”

Whatever meaning attorneys ascribe to the term, they could benefit from more of it.

A deeper analysis of the survey data when broken down by respondents’ professional title revealed that senior associates reported the lowest amount of time spent on self-care per week, averaging only 3.9 hours. Remaining respondent groups (including all other associate levels, partners, and in-house counsel) fell within the average range of 5 to 6 hours.

With declines in well-being, and burnout on the rise, it’s more critical now than ever for lawyers to take time for themselves, despite the ever-growing demands of their profession. The fact that many lawyers are not even averaging one hour per day each week on self-care is quite alarming—and raises the question as to why this number is so low.

One explanation is that respondents are genuinely too busy balancing work and other commitments that they can’t dedicate much time for themselves. Or perhaps, they don’t necessarily know what falls under the umbrella of “self-care,” which may have led to artificially low numbers in the report. Survey results could also suggest that pressure from their superiors or the values of their employers are impacting their ability to make time for personal care.

Suggestions for Practicing Self-Care

Regardless of the reason for the small amount of time spent on self-care each week, it’s time for attorneys to value themselves as much as they value their work. Here are a few suggestions on how to do so.

  • Better understand and define what self-care means to you.
  • Prioritize yourself in addition to—and sometimes above—your casework.
  • Limit your screen time. (Find some additional tips on putting your phone down to disconnect from work here.)
  • Get more sleep each night.
  • Go outside (or at least, step away from your desk) to clear your head.
  • Utilize online resources, such as Bloomberg Law’s suite of content on lawyer well-being.
  • Practice meditation or relaxation techniques.
  • Go to the gym and stay active.
  • Plan a work-free vacation—it’s summer after all!

Related content is available for free on ourIn Focus: Lawyer Well-Beingpage. Bloomberg Law subscribers can find related content on ourSurveys, Reports & Data Analysis, Legal Operations, andIn Focus: Lawyer Developmentpages.

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