Stress Management

Law is a stressful occupation and it starts early.[1] In law school we are thrown into the most stressful academic situation most of us have ever encountered. Once we are out of law school it gets worse. Maybe we got a job with a top tier firm and we are working crazy hours with no time for a personal life. Maybe we hung out our shingle and we are trying to support ourselves (and possibly a family) while still making our law school loan payments. Once we are established, we are gunning for partner or expanding our practices or trying to start a family (and probably STILL making our law school loan payments). It is not an easy profession and the question of “how do you deal with stress?” becomes increasingly important as the years go by.

In our August issue, we spotlighted many of our members who are also athletes. Exercise is certainly one of the best ways to manage stress. However, not everyone is an athlete (or even likes working out), so what do they do? Some become anxious or depressed and unfortunately some turn to drugs and alcohol. If you are facing these problems you are not alone and there is help. Check out the California State Bar Lawyer Assistance Program found here. You could also try The Other Bar Association found at: http://otherbar.org/.

Many people, however, are simply stressed out. It can manifest as anxiety or anger toward those we love. It can make us question our dedication to our profession. So, how can we manage our stress so that we can be our best selves, and thus give our best work to our clients? We are pleased to announce that the upcoming MCLE Spectacular will feature Jeena Cho, co-author of “The Anxious Lawyer.” Ms. Cho will talk about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness for lawyers, and how she has utilized those tools not only to manage stress and be a happier person, but how doing so has made her a better lawyer. All who attend will receive a free copy of her book. You might recall that in our December issue, Board member Nicole Mills wrote a book review of The Anxious Lawyer, which can be found here.  With Nicole’s permission I am including a portion of her book review here:

“This book, ‘The Anxious Lawyer’ offers an alternative to the aggressive, winner-take-all approach that allows for a more open, even joyful mindset, but it is not “soft” or “hippy dippy.” Instead, it is a practical approach to mediation and mindfulness, directed at attorneys…. The Anxious Lawyer sets out an 8-week program of mediation and mindfulness, but don’t be put off by that investment of time. It is not an hour a day and it is not “another thing to do.” It starts small and stays do-able, giving one step at a time in increments of the reader’s choosing. The authors point out that meditation is nothing more than mental training (something attorneys are usually pretty good at) – it is a means of “settling and focusing the mind.” (p. 11). It sounds very simple, but as lawyers, we are trained to keep thinking – continuously – so many lawyers resist this quieting of the mind. Like everything else, it takes practice to attain, but the benefits can be well worth it.”

Ms. Cho points out that incorporating the practices of meditation and mindfulness not only benefits us, it benefits our clients. “For example, practicing mindfulness can help us to notice when our bodies and minds are reacting in a negative way, when we are starting to get angry or agitated and our minds start to close because we ‘already know how this is going to go.’ If we can notice when this is beginning, it creates a moment of choice. We don’t have to get angry or upset. We can choose to settle our bodies and quiet our minds. Doing so allows our minds to be open to receive the information coming at us and it allows us to see all of the opportunities before us. This could mean that we see the important fact that is almost ‘thrown away” in a sea of words, or it could mean that we are open to the creative solution that comes when we show compassion or empathy for our opponents and try to understand their needs as well as our own. As the practice of law moves toward a more cooperative approach centered on problem solving, these are skills that will serve us – and our clients – well.”

If this speaks to you, we hope that you attend Ms. Cho’s presentation at the MCLE Spectacular this year, but whether you choose to attend her presentation or not, remember these words – “Be kind to yourself. Being a lawyer is hard.” (p.144).

*Special thanks to Contra Costa County Bar Association Board Member, Nicole Mills, for her significant contributions to this article. Nicole is a graduate of Cornell Law School and is the owner of Empower Mediation, www.empower-mediation.com.


Philip M. Andersen is the Managing Attorney of the State Farm Insurance Company In-House Litigation Department in Pleasanton. (Philip M. Andersen & Associates). He has extensive litigation and trial experience defending policy holders in personal injury lawsuits. He has been managing in-house insurance litigation offices since 1994. Contact Phil at (925) 225-6838 or philip.andersen.nx3z@statefarm.com.

[1] The views expressed in this article are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer State Farm.

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