Rainmaking Recommendation #251: Follow the G.O.A.T.

Simone Biles’ newly created Twitter emoji

Have you been watching the Olympics?  I’ve been watching, but maybe not as avidly as I have done in the past.  The one event that I and millions of others have been watching since the games began is women’s gymnastics.  I can safely say that everyone who was going to watch was there to see Simone Biles make Olympic history.  Maybe even land that two and a half Yurchenko, which had never been done in international competition. 

So, imagine the shock it must have been to Team U.S.A., the coaches, and the world to see Simone Biles pull out of the team competition after one vault.  Personally, I was stunned!

Simone Biles has decided her mental health is more important than taking on the pressure that she has been under since the world has begun to refer to her as The G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time).  In fact, as of this morning, she is also foregoing competing in the All-Around, where everyone slated her to win the gold. However, it is still up in the air whether she will compete in the event finals on the various apparatuses. 

So why am I bringing this up? And what does this have to do with Rainmakers?

Mental health in the legal industry has been a topic for many years.  But, it seems to me that it has mostly been a lot of lip service.  Particularly in Big Law and Middle-Market firms.  You would have thought that working from home during the pandemic may have alleviated some of the stress that attorneys are under, but the truth is working from home can be even more stressful for attorneys than not.  I know this will be unpopular, but the fact is that working in an office allowed most of us to delineate our days.  We had a start time and a stop time.  Commutes could be used to decompress for many lawyers.  But, there is no stop or start time naturally occurring when you are working from home. I know this for a fact because I have worked from home for more than a dozen years. 

Working from home is fantastic for me now, but I have had to learn to create start and stop times in my business.  If I didn’t, then every day, I would be working from dawn to dawn.  And that is not healthy.  It’s not healthy from a physical standpoint, and it’s not healthy from a mental health perspective.  The amount of pressure we, as lawyers, put on ourselves to achieve is hard enough.  Now, working all of the time from home is causing more problems than ever. 

This isn’t to say that attorneys cannot be productive working from home – there are so many articles in the industry showing how productive and profitable working at home was for many attorneys during the pandemic. But being productive and being overextended are two different things.   

Simone Biles said, “enough.”  Maybe it wasn’t the most apropos time for her to do so from the public’s viewpoint, but neither was dropping out of the French Open and Wimbledon for Naomi Osaka.  But both ladies have decided to put their mental health first – over and above winning and sponsorships, etc.  And this is one of the strongest and bravest things that they could have done. 

Now, I’m not saying you have to leave your law firm, but you do need to know when to say when. You need to find time in your calendar to stop what you are doing and just breathe.  This means you need to control your calendar; and, I believe that every attorney out there can do so – regardless of whether you are a first-year associate or a partner. 

There are ways to set up your calendar, allowing you time for doing things other than work.  And it includes not only Rainmaking Activities but also time off.  

This Rainmaking Recommendation will not allow me to go into the myriad of ways to enhance your productivity management (my clients, friends, and those who have been reading this blog since its inception will tell you that I hate the term “time management” because we are only allotted 24 hours in a day and I cannot do anything to change that) because then you would be spending valuable time reading this. But I can tell you that finding the right productivity system along with learning how to say “no” without it affecting your career are two of the most important things you can do in your legal career. 

I promise in future Rainmaking Recommendations to talk about ways to schedule yourself that will allow you the mental health breaks you want before it becomes something that affects your legal career and life detrimentally.  And I will teach you how to say “no.”

Oh, and for those who think that what Simone Biles (or Naomi Osaka) has done by bowing out of her most significant competition of the year is  

mentally weak” or “quitter” has zero interest in a good faith discussion about mental health.

If she had dropped out because of a cancer diagnosis, I suspect the response would be different, even from the pure politically motivated.”

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