Editor’s note: This is the ninth story in our Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program “Stories of Recovery” series, featuring attorneys in their own words on how they overcame mental health or substance abuse problems. The State Bar’s TLAP program offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527, and find more information at texasbar.com/TLAP.
When I started practicing law, I was anxious, petrified, depressed, terrified — you name it.
After a couple of years, I decided I needed some help, so I sought out a business coach. She taught me to improve my performance, but more than that she taught me to eat right, exercise, meditate, and take care of myself for the long haul of a career.
I plunged back into law practice, working on eating better, losing weight, exercising, and meditating, and somehow, I managed to survive it. After a couple more years, the work really started to click. Issues began to be more familiar; cases became more routine. I didn’t have to think so hard for each document or appearance.
It was the pain and fear I felt from law practice that opened me up to a path of self-care. This, in turn, opened me up to other benefits. I have more energy and more focus than ever before, and I am more present in my life than I was previously.
In work, this manifests in networking, mentoring younger lawyers, giving presentations, and taking on pro bono work, and it gives me the perspective to provide my clients guidance and wisdom. In life, I am happier, fitter, a better family member, a more helpful person, and I can better appreciate the wonder of the world.
In sports or music or meditation, you practice and make mistakes before you go out and perform. Law practice is not supposed to be that way: You need to start at a level that meets your ethical obligations. But it is not possible to know everything when you start. The first time you step into court or draft a client document, you are going to make mistakes.
The key is to accept this, to learn from your mistakes. That is how you improve. As you improve, your worry lessens, and a path opens up to joyful practice. We hear so much about how draining and deadening law practice is, but I have found just the opposite: that it can be a source of energy and awakening.