6 Steps to Being a More Resilient Lawyer

Faye Gelb

What is Lawyer Resilience?

Resilience has always been a mystery to me. I thought as a lawyer, you just pushed through challenges and that was the definition of a resilient person. It turns out there is a lot more to it and although we are definitely born with a particular bent towards resilience, we can all learn methods to increase it.

Definition of Resilience

The place to start is defining: "What is resilience?

The American Psychological Association ("APA") defines resilience as:

"...the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands."

What does low lawyer resilience look like?

Resilience is affected by many things over time. In some circumstances you will have ample reserves with your resilience rushing in and assisting you forward. In other circumstances your resilience will retreat and you may be left with feelings associated with low resilience. 

It is important to recognize the feelings of low resilience because there are things we can do to help ourselves increase it. Feelings associated with low resilience can include but are not limited to:

  • hopelessness,
  • disconnection,
  • tiredness or fatigue,
  • being stressed out and
  • having a mindset that it is difficult to continue (Riopel, 2020).

It's obvious that increasing our resilience should be a top priority, especially in law where we face many challenges over time that wear us down.

What should we know before we start to build lawyer resilience?

Leslie Riopel's Positive Psychology article on resilience identifies some key factors:

  • it is not the same for all aspects of your life and all challenges so even though you may think of yourself as resilient at home, you might not be at work;
  • it can be situation specific, so even at work where for example you feel less resilient, you may surprise yourself with your resilience in a specific situation;
  • it changes over time; 
  • it differs over interactions;
  • it is a personal definition; 
  • developing it is personal;
  • health effects it; and
  • positivity improves it (Shing, 2016).

Below are 6 Steps to Build Lawyer Resilience that you can do right now.

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6 Steps to Building Lawyer Resilience Using Our Minds

1. Healthy Thoughts

Change negative thoughts with a positive action. For example, physically move to a different location, exercise even if it is a simple movement or movements, do a different task, or do an action you enjoy.

2. Healthy Control

Focus on and invest energy in events you can control, let go of what you can't.

3.  Re-frame

Change your interpretation of events to know that things happen, and focus on what is working instead of what isn't. See it as an opportunity to become a better you.

4. Growth mindset 

Be open, curious and adaptable to build resilience. We explored curiousity with Jacinta Gallant who talks about how learning to be open and curious led her to an innovative family law practice. Listen to the podcast to learn more. You can use The Power of Curiousity to create resilience and innovation in your career using her technique!

5 Write

Try expressive writing where you write down your thoughts for a short time period of 5 - 10 minutes, without filtering them and then rip it up. This technique is used by Dr. Hanscom, a back surgeon, to very successfully treat patients with chronic pain. Although it is not completely understood why it works, there is universal agreement that it works. 

6. Tap into Prior Positive Emotions

In the past you have experienced resilience. Tap into your prior emotions where you felt you had the strength and power to overcome a challenge and use that emotion recalled to apply it in the current circumstances.

Interested in diving deeper? Check out these Resources:

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Lawyer, Faye Gelb, Founder, Her Legal Global

About The Author

Faye Gelb, founder of Her Legal Global is passionate about empowering lawyers to have a career that makes them smile when they wake up in the morning. Lawyer, Entrepreneur, startup cofounder, front end web developer, photographer and business consultant. Her goal is to help you learn skills. We don't just talk about issues, we provide solutions! Listen to Her Legal Global Podcast for expert interviews providing you with immediate support and actionable skills.