Lawyers Lives In Balance Tips For Managing Stress


By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Our consulting and coachingclients are telling us thatmaintaining a balancebetween professional and personallife is their top challenge, concernand priority. Standing room only isthe order of the day in our Life onBalance speaking presentations tobar and other professional associations.

Lives out of balance result in stresswith numerous mental and physicalnegative consequences. Medicalconsequences can include:

Stress is one of the emotions thatinclude both fear and anxiety. It isthe emotion that results from thedesire to terminate, escape from oravoid a real or imagined, current orimminent, negatively reinforcingevent. Stress is in the eye of thebeholder. 80 percent of the effect ofa stressor is our perception of it asdeterring us from achievement of agoal. The critical test for a situationachieving stressor status is whetherthe individual feels out of control.

You can prevent stressors fromoccurring or stop them once theybegin by increasing CONTROL.

In Martin Seligman’s book -Learned Optimism, the authoradvises that people learn to becomehelpless. When people have no controlover their environment theygive up trying to exert control.Optimism is associated with highmotivation, success, achievement,and mental health. Pessimism isassociates with opposite traits.Seligman suggests the followingmodel for obtaining control:

In general, if you expect bad things- bad things tend to happen – if youexpect good things – good thingstend to happen. Focus on positiveemotions.

Unless stress is effectively managed- your personal and professional lifewill be out of balance.

Learning to manage stress in yourlife is much more difficult thanmany imagine. It requires conscientiousawareness of stressors in yourlife and efforts at developing copingskills.

Typical causes of stress include:

Your stress management strategy should begin by identifying stressors in your life. Here are some self-assessmentquestions that you should ask yourself using the following self-assessment scale:

Rate yourself on the following scale by assigning a numerical rating according to the following key:

1 – Never   2 – Seldom   3 – Sometimes   4 – Most of the Time   5 – Always

Personal Time

  1. I work too many hours.
  2. My work commute is too long.
  3. I travel too often in for my work.
  4. I work too many weekends.
  5. I take too few vacations.
  6. My time is not my own on vacation.
  7. There is too little time for me.
  8. There is too little time for my family.
  9. There is too little time for my friends.
  10. I don’t have time for hobbies or other interests.


  1. I feel pressure to make more money.
  2. I need to pay off student loans and other debts.
  3. I need more money to provide for basic needs of my family.
  4. I want money to reach/maintain a certain lifestyle.
  5. I feel that I have to make more money as a sign of success.
  6. I feel I have to make more money to provide me with more power.
  7. I need more money so I can feel that I am secure.
  8. I need to make money to demonstrate my worthiness.


  1. I am concerned and worried about my personal health.
  2. I have not been living a healthy lifestyle.
  3. I often worry about my future health.
  4. I am worried about a health condition for which there has been nodiagnosis.
  5. I am worried about a health condition for which there has been adiagnosis.


  1. I am worried about health conditions of family members.
  2. I worry or am worried about my children’s lifestyles.
  3. I worry or am worried about my spouse’s fidelity.
  4. I struggle and worry about childcare for my children.
  5. I worry or am worried about my children’s school performance.
  6. I often fight with my spouse and my children.
  7. I worry about the health and security of my/spouse parents.

Work – Culture

  1. I do not trust my partners/other attorneys.
  2. Communications in the office is poor. .
  3. We are expected to work too many hours.
  4. I don’t get recognition or respect.
  5. I don’t know if I am successful at work.
  6. There is too much competition at work.

Role and Demands

  1. I have too much work.
  2. My work has too many details.
  3. I don’t like the work that I do.
  4. I don’t get to do the work that I like.
  5. I am in a dead-end job.
  6. My role, objectives or expectations are not well defined.
  7. I am not trained for the work I am being asked to do.
  8. I do not have the competencies or skills to perform the workI am being asked to perform.
  9. There is excessive travel.
  10. I feel pressured to get client business.
  11. I do not like the business aspects of being a lawyer.
  12. The work is boring or repetitive.


  1. I have no say in how the work is done.
  2. I am not able to plan my work.
  3. I do not get to participate in decision-making.
  4. There are excessive interruptions.
  5. I do not have adequate staff and other resources.
  6. I have fears about my job security.
  7. Insufficient knowledge about firm plans.

Relationships and Support

  1. I am isolated and I work alone, apart from other workers.
  2. I have poor relationships in the firm.
  3. I have lack of respect from peers.

Average Score = Add up the numeric score on each response and divide by 56.

TIP #1: Take notes and note ideas and improvement areas as your complete the self-assessment questionnaire.

TIP #2: Prepare an action plan with completion timetables identified. Self-accountability should be designed into the plan.

TIP #3: Implement the plan. Work on one goal or behavior at a time until each behavior becomes a habit. Then move on to the next.

TIP #4: Appoint someone with nagging rights to help keep you on track. Hire a coach if necessary.

TIP #5: Follow-up and review.

Good luck on your journey to life on balance and staying energized and productive.

John W. Olmstead, Jr., MBA, Ph.D., CMC, is a Certified Management Consultant and the president of Olmstead & Associates, LegalManagement Consultants and Life On Balance. Both firms are based in St. Louis, Missouri. Olmstead & Associates helps law and otherprofessional service firms change and reinvent their practices. The firm provides practice management, coaching, marketing, and technologyconsulting services. Their coaching program provides attorneys and staff with one-on-one coaching to help them get “unstuck” andmove forward, reinventing both themselves and their law practices. Life On Balance helps clients improve work-life balance andimprove overall quality of work and life. Work-life coaching, consulting, and speaking services are provided. Founded in 1984, Olmstead& Associates serves clients across the United States ranging in size from 100 professionals to firms with solo practitioners. Dr. Olmsteadis the Editor-in-Chief of “The Lawyers Competitive Edge: The Journal of Law Office Economics and Management,” published by WestGroup. He also serves as a member of the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) Research Committee. Dr. Olmstead may be contacted via e-mailat articles and information is availableat the firm’s web site: and

© Olmstead & Associates, 2007.All rights reserved.

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