Coaching to Alleviate Lawyer Burnout

Coaching to Alleviate Lawyer Burnout

Today’s legal environment demands that lawyers perform at much higher levels than in the past. As a result, they must stretch themselves as well as others to achieve challenging goals in often compressed periods of time. Excessive workloads, time pressures, billing, client demands, working with difficult people, perfectionism, and practicing in one of the most competitive business/legal environments in history are but a few of the stressors placed on law firms and lawyers.


In 2016, the American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation published their study of nearly 13,000 currently practicing lawyers [the“Study”]. It found that between 21 and 36 percent qualify as problem drinkers, and that approximately 28 percent, 19 percent, and23 percent are struggling with some level of depression, anxiety, and stress, respectively

The parade of difficulties also includes suicide, social alienation, work addiction, sleep deprivation, job dissatisfaction, a “diversity crisis,” complaints of work-life conflict, incivility, a narrowing of values so that profit predominates, and negative public perception.

Notably, the Study found that younger lawyers in the first ten years of practice and those working in private firms experience the highest rates of problem drinking and depression. The budding impairment of many of the future generation of lawyers should be alarming to everyone. Too many face less productive, less satisfying, and more troubled career paths.

Given this data, lawyer well-being issues can no longer be ignored. Acting for the benefit of lawyers who are functioning below their ability and for those suffering due to substance use and mental health disorders, theNational Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being urge our profession’s leaders to act.

Other studies have found that burnout can lead to troubling symptoms such as:

  • Errors, incompetence and a lack of clarity
  • Loss of control and self-doubt
  • Ethical and value shortcuts
  • Physical and/or emotional exhaustion
  • Depersonalization and social withdrawal
  • A lack of sense of accomplishment
  • Drug abuse
  • Inability to focus

“Furthermore, lawyers tend to lack adequate resources (social support, helpful advice, feedback from friends of colleagues) that could otherwise help lessen the burden of their jobs and allow them to rekindle the flame, as it were. As a result, the passion, dedication, and enjoyment that a lawyer once felt for his/her work and life, slowly begins to suffocate, until there is nothing left to keep them going.”(Lack)

BurnoutRed Flags


  • Headaches/backaches
  • Fast or skipping heartbeat
  • Indigestion, diarrhea, gastric complaints
  • Sleep problems–getting to sleep or staying asleep
  • Appetite changes (decrease or increase)
  • Sexual dysfunction or lost interest
  • Tiredness


  • Short fuse/impatience
  • Feeling of being overwhelmed
  • Emotional rollercoaster
  • Forgetfulness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Increased procrastination
  • Feeling of anxiety or dread

What the Medical Profession Found to Alleviate Burnout Works for Lawyers

In a study in JAMAInternal Medicine, MayoClinic researchers suggest a new approach to fighting burnout: external professional coaching.

Professional Coaching

Self-knowledge and reflection is critical to a lawyer’s success to prevent or eliminate burnout. This is where working with an external professional coach can provide immense value.

Behavior change that is sustainable and dependable requires consistent encouragement, practice and feedback.  High-level behavior changes also need time to develop, time to be tested in action and time to be refined. This cannot happen in a vacuum. Development occurs out loud, in relationship with others and within context, be it personal or organizational.

Coaching helps lawyers develop skills of self-observation, self-awareness, self-responsibility and self-mastery. These skills allow lawyers to continue to grow long after the coaching relationship ends. Good coaches provide thought-provoking questions, personal exercises, advice and assignments to help lawyers maximize their unique gifts and talents. Coaching addresses burnout head-on and develops extraordinary lawyers. Extraordinary lawyers produce extraordinary results.

At Wolf Management Consultants, LLC, we provide confidential professional coaching services that help build job-critical competencies to reduce and eliminate lawyer burnout and promote positive behavior changes that lead to better job performance and personal satisfaction.

Coaching ROI

  • A global survey by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the Association Resource Center found that the mean Return on Investment in coaching was 7 times the initial investment, and over a quarter of coaching clients reported a stunning ROI of 10 to 49 times the cost. No other investment in professional development provides an average client-reported ROI of somewhere between 340-700%.
  • A landmark study commissioned by Right Management Consultants, based in Philadelphia, found a return-on-investment of dollars spent on coaching of nearly 600%. Participants engaged in coaching reported increases in productivity, improvement in relationships with direct reports and colleagues, and greater job satisfaction.
  • The majority of studies including a major one by Joy McGovern and her colleagues at the research firm, Manchester, indicated that the participants who received coaching valued the service between $100,000 to $1 million ROI.
  • Studies on coaching report an ROI of 5 to 7 times the initial investment. One reason this may be so high is that coaching can be customized to address individual needs, with week-to-week support and opportunities to integrate learning into real life work experiences. This is in contrast to training programs where the learning is forgotten in three months if it is not supported.


- Results from an International Coach Federation survey in 2016, reported, that of those surveyed:

  • 72% saw an increase/development in their relationships
  • 73% noticed an increase in communication
  • 80% noted an improvement in confidence
  • 80% noted an improvement in confidence
  • 99% who hired a coach were satisfied
  • 98% said they would repeat the process

- Korn Ferry Report on Coaching

  • 96% report to have seen individual performance improve since coaching was introduced. Nearly as many (92%) also have seen improvements in effectiveness.
  • The top two indications of successful coaching were (a) sustained behavioral change (63%), (b) increased self-awareness and understanding (48%). On a 1-10 scale, over half of those coached participants reported a sustainability level between 6 and 8; over a third were at the 9-10 level.
  • 77% of the respondents indicated that coaching had a significant or very significant impact on at least one of nine business measures. Productivity (60% favorable) and employee satisfaction (53%) were cited as the most significantly impacted by the coaching.

If not properly addressed, attorney burnout not only has devastating consequences for an attorney, but also for the firm, its clients and colleagues.

WolfManagement Consultants is taking the lead from the medical profession and offering unique and proactive coaching to alleviate burnout.

Please contact us to discuss how we may partner with you to solve this pressing problem.

We may be reached at 858-638-8260 or


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