Balancing the Scales: Prioritising Mental Health in the Lives of In-House Lawyers

I have worked in private practice and as an in-house lawyer for many years now and a recent expression got me thinking. It states, My ducks are absolutely not in a row. I don’t even know where all of them are, and I am pretty sure one of them is a pigeon”.

I know this expression resonates with many in-house lawyers!

Remember, it’s okay not to have everything perfectly in place all the time. Sometimes, life throws us unexpected challenges, and that’s when we need to take a step back, reassess, and tackle one thing at a time. If one of your “ducks” seems out of place, take a moment to identify what it is and make a plan to address it. And, as for the pigeon, perhaps it’s time to figure out where it belongs or if it’s time to let it fly away.

But, on a more serious note, let’s look a little further into why those ducks don’t always need to be in a row and how striving for perfection can sometimes have a negative impact on you. Why not accept that every individual in house lawyer is different and sometimes a few pigeons, turkeys or any other type of bird is a good thing. Embrace diversity!

We are told time and time again that In-house lawyers, like professionals in any field, should be mindful of their mental health and well-being. We know that the legal profession can be demanding and stressful, with long hours, high-pressure situations, and challenging cases. If you are not already taking active steps in this area then let’s do something about it and make conscious efforts to bring about change.

Here are some key considerations for in-house lawyers regarding mental health:

  1. Recognise the Signs of Stress and Burnout: Being aware of the signs of stress and burnout is crucial. These may include feelings of exhaustion, cynicism or detachment from work, and a sense of ineffectiveness or lack of accomplishment. Recognising these signs early can help prevent more serious mental health issues.
  2. Prioritise Work-Life Balance: Strive to maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life. This can include setting boundaries around working hours, taking regular breaks, and making time for activities that promote relaxation and well-being.
  3. Seek Support: Don’t hesitate to seek support from colleagues, supervisors, or mental health professionals if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Many organisations offer employee assistance programs (EAPs) that provide confidential counselling and support services.
  4. Practice Self-Care: Engage in self-care activities that promote physical and mental well-being, such as exercise, mindfulness meditation, hobbies, and spending time with loved ones. Taking care of yourself is essential for maintaining resilience in the face of stress.
  5. Develop Coping Strategies: Identify healthy coping strategies that work for you, such as deep breathing exercises, journaling, or talking to a trusted friend or mentor. Having a toolbox of coping mechanisms can help you manage stress more effectively.
  6. Set Realistic Expectations: Be realistic about what you can accomplish within a given timeframe and communicate openly with colleagues and supervisors about workload and deadlines. Setting realistic expectations can help reduce feelings of overwhelm and prevent burnout.
  7. Promote a Positive Work Culture: Advocate for a positive work culture within your organisation that prioritises employee well-being. This can include initiatives such as flexible work arrangements, mental health awareness training, and fostering a supportive and inclusive environment.
  8. Take Regular Breaks: Even during busy periods, make it a priority to take regular breaks throughout the day. Stepping away from your desk, going for a walk, or practicing mindfulness can help clear your mind and improve focus and productivity.
  9. Know When to Seek Help: If you’re experiencing persistent feelings of anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Talking to a therapist or counsellor can provide valuable support and guidance.
  10. Lead by Example: As a leader within your organisation, lead by example by prioritising your own mental health and encouraging open dialogue about mental health issues among colleagues. By destigmatising mental health discussions, you can help create a more supportive and resilient workplace culture.

Remember that there is no need to seek perfection when you are already perfect!

Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. By prioritising self-care and seeking support when needed, we can strive to manage the demands of our profession and maintain overall well-being.

For further support, please links below:

  1. Mind:
  2. LawCare:

By Allia Khan, Committee Member at Birmingham Law Society In-House Committee