According to the UK Health & Safety Executive’s figures, workload pressure is by far the most common cause of work-related stress, cited by 44% of stress sufferers.(2)
Unfortunately, the principle, “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person” can too often prevail in firms and chambers — especially when it comes to allocation of new instructions. A complex trademark dispute arrives. You did an amazing job on a similar one, so this latest case lands in your lap automatically, without any real consideration of whether you have the capacity to handle it.
To keep your caseload at a manageable level, knowing how to say ‘no’ is an invaluable skill for any lawyer. Let’s say a senior partner emails you with a new instruction when you’re already very busy. Instead of declining the work outright, try reframing your response in such a way as to invite the person requesting the work to consider your priorities: for example, “I can take it on, but this will mean putting X’s existing case on the back burner for a fortnight — or else reassigning it. Is that ok?”.
Likewise, if an existing client approaches you directly with a new instruction when you are at capacity, it’s useful to be able to offer a workable alternative rather than an outright no. This might involve recommending someone else within the firm to handle it, so you are actively helping to solve the client’s problem, without overburdening yourself.
‘Lack of support’ was another common trigger of stress highlighted in the HSE’s findings. This will ring true with many legal fee-earners: you have a big caseload to handle, and it can too often feel like you are on your own in managing it.
The stress associated with this can be reduced when firms introduce a more group-focused approach to case handling. Cultural barriers and an over-emphasis on individual targets can make it harder for lawyers to work together, however, digitising your files can go a long way in helping reduce these barriers.
With collaborative tools, you can share files with ease and work on them simultaneously, get ideas and feedback, all from a single platform. Regular round-table meetings are also a good way of giving lawyers the opportunity to talk through problematic cases, to find a way through workflow bottlenecks and to help prevent those lawyers from feeling overwhelmed.
A certain amount of stress can be a positive thing; especially for helping you think on your feet. Stress becomes a problem however, when it is constantly or frequently present, and when you feel your calendar and caseload is controlling you, rather than the other way around. Keeping stress in check requires you to retake control of your time. Strategies for this include the following:
As a barrister, your instructing solicitor has requested an emergency pre-trial conference. With multiple ring binders of enclosures to consider and limited time to get through it, simply getting organised can be a stressful process in itself.
With the right type of technology at your fingertips, it becomes possible to remove many of the frustrations that can arise when you have a complex bundle on your desk. With Casedo, for instance, you can import all your documents into a single manageable file. It means that navigating the bundle instantly becomes a lot easier; you can get to exactly the right section you require in an instant, annotate and make sense of the entire bundle and see the whole picture in much less time and with a lot less stress.
To discover how Casedo can help you retain control of your caseload, try our free demo today. You can also find more information on issues affecting legal professionals, and how you can overcome them, in the articles on our Insights hub.
In the lawyer’s ideal world, monthly billing and work-in-progress targets are always on track, deadlines are never missed, while senior partners and clients alike are singing your praises. And to top it all off, you even have time to enjoy life outside of the office.
It’s fair to say that bringing up the topic of work pressure to non-lawyer friends isn’t always guaranteed to trigger a massive outpouring of sympathy. The problem lies in the old myth that a lawyer’s life must be a glamorous rollercoaster ride, packed with variety, intellectual stimulation, high-octane court showdowns, along with a bulging bank balance. If there’s a little stress along the way, then surely it’s just all part of the job?
Right now, new technology is making it easier for lawyers to work with digitised documents. Most lawyers are familiar with pdfs: the standard file format for storing scanned documents, as well as for exchanging them with other parties. On the flip side, if you have ever tried to edit, copy or search through text in such a file, you’ll know just how frustrating pdfs can be to work with.
For any forward-thinking lawyer, the benefits of legal technology (or ‘lawtech’) are hard to ignore. In areas such as case management, research, communications and more, tech is helping to boost productivity, drive efficiency and, most important of all, deliver better outcomes for clients.