Learn to treat law like a marathon

By Lloyd C. Rosenberg
BridgeTower Media Newswires

I became a partner at my firm the same year that my son was born. My wife decided that she would be a stay-at-home mom. We then purchased a larger house that we could ill afford at the time.

Nothing like overachieving and adding stress to one’s life. Sound familiar?

This was back during a time when life was much easier than it is today. Technology had not yet entwined its ever-expanding tentacles into our lives. In fact, when I began to practice law back in the Neanderthal era (circa 1979), there were no personal computers (seriously!), fax machines, scanning, overnight mail or cellphones. Can you imagine that?

Back then, we actually used typewriters, carbon paper and first-class mail. And yet, given all of these crude, rudimentary elements, we managed to survive and even thrive as lawyers.

One thing is certain: Even back then, law was very stressful. We had uncivil opposing attorneys, difficult judges and demanding clients with unreasonable expectations. And billable hours had already been invented.

So how does one stay sane given the multitude of increased challenges facing us every day?

I adopted a simple strategy: the marathon approach. I decided early on that if I was going to survive a career in law (which I assumed would last 30
to 40 years — what seemed like an eternity back then), I had to treat law like a long-distance run. While some days seemed more like running a 100-yard dash over and over again on a treadmill, I was in it for the long haul.

Balance was and still is the key. If you work really hard one day, you need to unwind the next day. It is a yin-yang philosophy. How do you apply this to your everyday practice?

First, find something relaxing and calming that you really like to do that has nothing to do with law. I was lucky. Early on, I discovered exercising. I tried running but soon realized that I didn’t have a runner’s body and developed shin splints that limited my enjoyment.

But I didn’t give up. I switched to cycling and found my passion. I’ve never raced and don’t really want to. I’ve always just loved the ride itself and feeling how my focus changed from mindful stress to peaceful relaxation and contentment as the endorphins kicked in.

You don’t have to run or cycle. Do whatever helps you find your little piece of paradise. Try yoga, meditation, weight lifting; even walking is amazing.

The second critical element is to treat your special time as a necessity of life, not an expendable luxury. Surviving law is a battle, and your special time is as important as eating and sleeping.

The third thing you must do without exception, except in cases of absolute necessity: Turn your cellphone off; or better yet, don’t take it with you.

You will survive for an hour without it. You are not that important to the world. Seriously!

Finally, no whining. No excuses like I’m too tired, I’m too busy, or whatever else you come up with. Would you ever say, “I don’t have time to go to the bathroom today.  I’m too busy.” Of course, not (I hope!).

The human brain is amazingly adept at coming up with great excuses. Don’t let that happen. The time you are most drained is when you need the most recharging. It’s also when your brain will go into overdrive trying to talk you out of it.

When you get out there, don’t forget to smell the roses. Move your mind away from your work and stress for this reprieve. Look at the trees, the birds, buildings, whatever. Focus on the present. Think about someone you love.

If you follow this simple strategy, it is truly amazing how good you will feel after you give yourself a little time to unwind. I guarantee that your mind will be fresher and you will be much more productive at law. It’s a simple win-win strategy.

If you ignore this basic human need, you will continue to feel tired, burnt out and sluggish. Treat law like a marathon. Stay in it for the entire race. You will be a happier person and a better lawyer. Trust me.
Lloyd C. Rosenberg was a partner with the Plymouth law firm of Winokur, Serkey & Rosenberg, where he practiced until he retired in 2018. He can be contacted at lrosenberg@serkeykel man.com.