Lawyer burnout: why it happens, and how to prevent it

What drives burnout in the legal profession, why nothing seems to change — and 9 solutions leaders can implement now

Sally Clarke
11 min readApr 8, 2024

In 2010, when I was a finance lawyer at a large firm, I went through a catastrophic burnout. It simmered for several years and came to a boil when I collapsed, crying inconsolably, in the arrival hall of a French airport late on a Friday night.

When I share this, the response is rarely one of surprise. Burnout is widely considered the price of entry for working in the legal profession.

Many lawyers are struggling: data gathered by LawCare in the UK in 2021 shows 42% of lawyers are in burnout. A recent study found that suicides by lawyers are 91 percent more likely to be attributed to job stress than other suicides.

Law firms pay a lot of lip service to the importance of concepts like work-life balance and mental health, while doing little to address the root causes of lawyer burnout. In light of recent high-profile instances of lawyers ending their own lives in the UK and Australia, you might hope we are reaching some kind of tipping point. Perhaps one where the ‘positive and lasting change’ promised by managing partners is more than an all-staff email encouraging use of a mental health…

--

--

Sally Clarke

Wellbeing & burnout author, expert, writer & speaker. Global adventurer. she/her www.salcla.com