HOW LOCAL LAWYERS AVOID BURNOUT By Joshua Bonnici
“You will never feel truly satisfied by work until you are satisfied by life.” —Heather Schuck, The Working Mom Manifesto
awyering is tough: endless client calls and emails; opposing attorneys scheduling ex parte hearings every week; the never-ending cycle of discovery deadlines.
But you knew all of that. You live it everyday. What are you doing, however, to make sure you’re fresh and sharp for each new challenge? Lawyer burnout is real, but many local legal professionals have found ways to combat legal fatigue. A recent National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study found that male lawyers were more likely to turn to suicide than other professionals. In 1990, Johns Hopkins University examined more than 100 occupations for anxiety-related issues; it found that lawyers suffered from depression 3.6 times more than the other professions studied. So how are San Diego lawyers combating the day in, day out stress of practicing law? In December, I rode my bike 170 miles in two days. Seriously. My bicycle. I participated in a local century ride (105 miles in one ride) and then a “metric” century (100 kilometers, or about 65 miles). The first I did with a fellow lawyer, and the other with a professional referral source. But what’s the main reason I ride? When I’m on the bike, my mind is clear: no emails, no phone calls, no interns with questions about discovery responses. The simplicity of pedaling, breathing and avoiding the occasional car reinvigorates mind and body. I’m fresh in the office for the next week. My staff can always tell when I haven’t had my weekly ride; I’m not as energetic on projects or as patient with clients.
Top to bottom: Löan Shillinger. Joshua Bonnici, Hon. Timothy Taylor, Eric Ganci
Local estate planning attorney Löan Shillinger has a similar approach. She uses trail running not only to connect with other runners, but after to get to her quiet place. As the principal attorney at Shillinger Law, and a mother of two, she rarely has quiet time to recharge or streamline her focus on a difficult case. “I have always been active, but needed something I could do for a quick 30-minute jaunt, or all day, depending on what my schedule would allow.” Since taking up trail running in late 2015, she has joined the SD Dirt Devils (a SoCal distance trail running group), started her own Dirt Devils Meetup for trail runners at Balboa Park, and has completed a 50K trail run in Marin County. She’s currently training for a 50-mile trail run this year in Arizona. “There’s nothing like only focusing on putting one foot in front of the other on a trail in the middle of the woods, with fresh air, beautiful scenery and no cell reception. I can quiet my mind from a stressful week, or hone-in on a big case that may need extra attention. As a business owner and mother, it’s necessary—for my sake and my family’s—to get my running time in.” January/February 2017 SAN DIEGO LAWYER 37