Lawyers should prioritize their health


There are many young professionals, lawyers in particular (and medical doctors) who think lack of sleep is an indicator of hard work, perseverance, and dedication. It is not.

Sleep deprivation is dangerous.

It does not serve the lawyer. It does not serve the client. It does not serve any purpose.

“A dead lawyer is useless.” This oft-repeated saying or dark humor says it all.

Sleep deprivation lowers a person’s capacity for analysis and decision-making. Guess which profession requires a lot of analysis and decision-making?

A client-dentist once remarked to me: “Your profession is too cerebral.” She then compared to what doctors did which involved physical work and going about checking patients and/or performing surgeries. Lawyers tend to sit all day thinking, writing arguments, and think some more, and repeat.

While it cannot be helped that certain cases will require pulling all-nighters (I sure have had my share of them), it is different if your romanticize it. Particularly, avoid any erroneous thinking that there is a correlation between sleep deprivation on the one hand and on the other: hardwork, perseverance, and dedication.

In those instances I had to stay at the law firm for over 16 hours resulting in clocking out at 2AM or 3AM (one time, at 5AM and I end up meeting our staff clocking in for work), it was a matter of duty. Nothing romantic about it. Come weekends, I sleep out to recover. I knew I had to reset my circadian rhythm to be effective in lawyering come the next week.

It may be asked why I write about this topic. It is because it appears to be a taboo topic in the legal profession. Those who speak out are frowned upon and dismissed as being “not tough enough” for private practice. Baloney.

What they leave out are these about the legal professionA high rate of depression (around 2.5x based on statistics from the American Bar Association);An high rate of addiction to alcohol and unfortunately prohibited substances;A high rate of annulment or divorce;A high rate of lawyers suffering from heart attack and stroke under 40 years old;and more.
There are three anecdotes that I have encountered thus far on lawyers disregarding their health.

First, there is this founder of a well-known and prestigious law firm, who died of a heart attack while playing soccer.

Second, there is this junior lawyer of also a well-known and prestigious law firm, who died on his desk of a heart attack unknown to his colleagues who just taught he doze off from work having pulled off long (and crazy) hours of overtime work.

Third, there is this junior lawyer who ventured into solo practice and subsequently suffered a stroke resulting in the paralysis of certain parts of his body.

I know the name of the first lawyer. I am a friend to the third lawyer who is a year below us when I was in law school. I have repeatedly heard of the second lawyer via anecdotes.