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Top 5 Ways for an Attorney to Avoid a Heart Attack

By Tanya Roth, Esq. | Last updated on

Anyone working in Big Law will tell you that stress is usually their constant companion. It's a career with a high rate of suicide and alcoholism.

One former Big Law attorney turned therapist, Will Meyerhofer, said that he would feel his entire body clench as he walked through the BigLaw doors.

Stress has even been a suspected murderer. Take ex-Sadden associate Lisa M. Johnstone, who died at 32. Coworkers claim that she worked 100 hours a week. She died of a heart attack and while the link between stress and her death isn't definitive, res ipsa loquitor.

So, how to manage stress when working at the firm? Here are some stress management tips for all you hour billers out there:

Work out. You've heard it many times before. While it's tough to fit a workout regimen into your bustling work schedule, half an hour in the morning can help you start your day off right. Even if it's a brisk walk to the office or time at a nearby gym, a little can go a long way.

Get a therapist. Many big firms have employee assistance programs, where you can call a designated "depression" line and get some counseling. They might also have a program that allows you a certain number of free visits to a therapist. Take advantage of this; it's a confidential service. You won't be the first lawyer they've seen bawl like a baby.

Eat well. It's hard to eat properly when you're chained to your desk. Some lawyers have resorted to liquid meals to get through their billable hours. But a can of Slim Fast can't sustain you when you're billing 40-plus hours a week. And bad nutrition catches up, in the form of mood swings, energy lows and depression.

Don't sweat the small stuff. It's a matter of state of mind. True, you're on your guard every time the partner walks into your office. But learn that it's not personal, no matter how personal a partner might want you to believe it is.

And finally, the most important stress management tip you may ever hear:

Know when to throw in the towel. The best thing may just be to walk away. If you're popping Xanax or breaking into a sweat every morning before work, it's time to go. No job is worth that kind of stress. As anyone who chose to leave Big Law will tell you, you will find something much more rewarding one day.

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