Burnout?

17 May

Show me a paralegal who has been in the business for more than 7 years and NOT experienced burnout, and I’ll guarantee you they are a total liar.

Recent personal crises aside, I feel like lately I have totally been phoning it in. Stack of depos to be summarized a foot and a half high? Meh. I’ll get to it. Need to follow up on those records requests that went out ages ago? Maybe tomorrow. Yeah, I’m not bragging or proud of my current state of mind. I just … don’t care. A fellow paralegal in my department has been at this much longer than I have and she has all kinds of spunk and vigor for her job. Granted, she has been at this firm for a whole lot less time than I have. She gets all fired up and works overtime when she has a deadline looming and a butt load of work. Me? My attitude is that I’ll get done what I can, when I can, and that will have to do. Oh look, new stuff on my twitter feed!

I defend myself a bit by saying I have a 3 year old child that must be picked up from daycare by 6:00 or else my checking account will be siphoned and I’ll have to tell child protective services why I was 5 minutes late. In all honesty, I just don’t have the energy to really worry about it. I start to wonder if this is a product of just doing the same type of law for the past 15 years or so, or if it’s this firm.

Part of the reason my new colleague is fired up about her work is that she still feels the need to prove herself to the attorneys. Maybe I’m too comfortable where I am? When I am working, I know I do a damn good job and my attorneys know this, too. My last review was about 20 seconds long and consisted of being told that if I ever left, my husband would be collecting boo koo bucks in life insurance. But not in those exact words. It was actually more graphic. It’s a good thing I share a dark sense of humor with Attorney B. I’m comfortable knowing that I’m awesome at what I do and I am not likely to get fired or disciplined unless I seriously screw up. And let’s face it, the odds of unintentionally screwing up are growing given my current lack of caring.

Not that my firm does a lot to inspire it’s workers to really reach for the gold or even improve morale. Perhaps that is part of the problem. The only incentive I have to kick ass (other than my own satisfaction) is that I won’t get yelled at. Even that doesn’t motivate me anymore because on any given day, I could be thrown under the bus by an attorney for something that wasn’t my responsibility or I had no control over. Or the fact that there is an ever increasing amount of work to do and it’s still expected to be accomplished in the same amount of time. And keep the overtime in check, will ya?

Besides the growing stack of work to be done and my indifference to it, I got to thinking about this because I was listening to a speaker at a recent conference and he mentioned some different areas of law during his presentation. The thought of doing something different drifted through my head, which sparked intrigue and a little wiggle of excitement that I hadn’t had in a while. For the life of me, I can’t even remember what area of law it was that created that moment. And it probably doesn’t even matter. Just the idea of doing something different was the spark.

The thought of learning something different than what I’ve been doing the last 10+ years is flat out scary. Besides, I mostly like what I do and it’s a good fit for my abilities and interests. Give me some medical issue to research, and I’ll run it down like a frickin’ blood hound. Want some dirt on someone? I’ll turn over any stone I can get my hands on, and some I can’t. I can tell you how to perform a laparoscopic cholecystectomy and the indications for converting it to an open surgery. (Gallbladder surgery for those non-medical people.) I can tell you what the signs and symptoms are for abdominal sepsis. And why you should tell your doctor about that nagging pain.

Maybe I just need a vacation. Or some new interest. Maybe I should look into completing my Bachelors degree. I’ve made it to where I always wanted to be. Now what the hell do I do?

12 Responses to “Burnout?”

  1. OldParalegal May 17, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    I’ve been there in the past, and I’m there again now. Just last week I called in and told my attorney I was staying home that day because I was totally uninterested in working. Sometimes a different job does help, because it’s a challenge to learn something new, but that only lasts so long! I tried business law for a year, and then couldn’t WAIT to get back to litigation.

    • Momalegal May 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

      That’s what I’m afraid of – I’ll get out of litigation and then be all, “What the hell was I thinking!”.

  2. Grumpy Humbug May 18, 2011 at 8:23 am #

    *raises hand*

    I’m in big-time burnout mode right now. It’s not my firm, it’s the job itself. It sucks the life out of you, and they don’t pay us enough for it. I’m working in 5 different areas of law concurrently, and even that variety isn’t helping.

    • Momalegal May 18, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

      Working in so many different areas does get old sometimes. You’re having to switch gears mentally all the frickin time. Did that for quite a while myself. So what to do? Just figure this too shall pass? I’m researching places for vacation RIGHT NOW!

  3. Cher May 18, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    And that’s why I do 10 other things outside of work. If I didn’t have something else – especially something creative – to concentrate on, I’d go crazy.

    You could try making some small changes in your office first. I know it sounds trivial, but sometimes little changes make big differences. Rearrange the furniture, paint the walls, buy some cool paintings/artwork, order new desk accoutrements, get a pretty silk flower arrangement that makes you smile, etc.

    As for your actual job, (now, I don’t know how a legal office works exactly) are there any of your normal responsibilities that you could designate to someone else to maybe have time to do something a little different? Or are your responsibilities all you’re allowed to do without being an actual lawyer?

    Taking the step to get a different job all-together is a really big decision, but I do think it’s worth investing a little time considering it, though. When you spend 8 hours (or more) working each day, the job needs to be more than tolerable at least 70% of the time.

    Maybe it is time for a big change. :)

    • Momalegal May 18, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

      Well, no room for anything cheery in here, what with all the stacks of papers. I’ve got tons of T’s artwork taped to the walls, though. And I’m pretty much stuck doing what I’m doing. I do like what I do – normally. I’m just so bored lately! :( I need a beach chair, a breeze by the sea and a bottomless margarita glass – STAT!

  4. Andrea @paralegalmom May 18, 2011 at 9:06 am #

    I’ve been with this firm for 11 years now, and we have one primary practice area. Between the depression issues and having been here that long, it’s been a long year. I’m working my way out of it, but it’s taken a lot of work. I love my job and the people that I work with, but sometimes that just isn’t enough.

    • Momalegal May 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

      Amen! Glad to hear you’re working you way out. Its not easy, especially with little ones that take up so much of your time (and brain cells!)

  5. Lady Jessop May 18, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

    I’m so there myself right now. I’m playing hooky today for that very reason. I’ve been a paralegal for almost 20 years and the only tips I have is to take a day off every once in a while to recharge and don’t let the guilt get to you otherwise it will just feed your burnout even more.

    Hang in there sister!

    -Karen

    • Momalegal May 19, 2011 at 12:07 am #

      Yes, a hooky day sounds totally necessary! Thanks for stopping by! :)

  6. Mari September 3, 2011 at 6:26 pm #

    Wow, finally, I found a blog that sounds like my life. I’m 26, with a 3-year old, and aspirations to become an attorney. I’m taking small steps there. I’ve been a para for nearly 6 years and learned last year, after being burned by a huge mass torts firm in NYC, that I really had legal admin experience rather than paralegal experience.

    Sometimes I feel like I wasted all this time but I know I haven’t. I’ve spent lots of time being an awesome mom and my daughter reminds me of this everyday. I went to an ivy league school in NYC to obtain my paralegal certificate this summer and now I’m back in the job hunting game. Been on a few interviews, still looking, and hoping not to be sucked into a boring, monotonous job with horrible pay. I’m reaching for the stars but really, its a means to an end and in this economy, I may have to take what I can.

    Being a paralegal is great but you reach a limit in salary and learning. Once you have mastered one area of law, it does becomes boring. I’m looking for a great job with excellent benefits and flexibility for the little one and I; however, like you said, I don’t know if the fear is of being bored at a job after being there forever or going to law school at 40.

    I am a strong believer in God and I keep myself extremely active with the youth at my local church. This provides the intrinsic value and purpose to my life. God is the source of everything for me and I keep this at the center of my mind daily to survive.

    • Momalegal September 6, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

      Welcome, Mari! Good luck with finding the right paralegal job. It can be tough, but I’m crossing my fingers for you!

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