Be Well, 1221 WYBJ, Vol. 44 No. 6. 44

AuthorMadeleine J. Lewis
PositionVol. 44 6 Pg. 44

Be Well

No. Vol. 44 No. 6 Pg. 44

Wyoming Bar Journal

December, 2021

It's Fine, Everything's Fine

Madeleine J. Lewis

Crowley Fleck PLLP Sheridan, Wyoming

As a young associate in my second year of private practice and a former federal law clerk, I am an expert on stress. That’s not backed up by any professional qualification in psychology. It’s more like I’ve become an expert on stress in the same way a boxer becomes an expert by taking punches to the face over and over again.

Certainly, no one promised this profession would be easy. Our day-to-day unpleasantries include demanding clients, billable requirements, deadlines, hostile opposing counsel, and long hours (to name a few). Oddly enough, the challenging nature of this profession is what draws many attorneys to practice in the first place. Like many of my colleagues and law classmates, I was high achieving throughout high school, college, and prior employment, fueled by an indestructible work ethic, desire to learn, and a sense of accountability to impeccable standards. Such attributes are the necessary making of successful law students, and later, successful attorneys.

Unfortunately, the very same qualities of endurance and perfectionism that poise many attorneys for success can also be extremely limiting and even add to the stress we experience in an already difficult job. As attorneys Jeena Cho and Karen Gifford explain in their 2016 book, The Anxious Lawyer, “[m]any lawyers have been conditioned to constantly strive to be perfect.”[1] Yet, for the first few years of practice, attorneys are bound to make mistakes. And potentially a lot of them. While doctors undergo years of residency and fellowship training, by comparison, many new lawyers are sent out into practice without potentially ever having stepped foot inside a courtroom (or a law firm for that matter). As revealed by the Wyo-ming State Bar’s 2021 Quality of Life Survey results, a full 73% of Wyoming attorneys who participated in the survey are in agreement: “lawyers today are not sufficiently trained to go directly into private practice.”[2] In the words of Cho and Gifford, the dissonance between where lawyers are—versus where they think they ought to be—causes many to feel like they “live in a world where they’re constantly failing.”[3]

Stress itself is no stranger to new attorneys. However, being thrown into an unfamiliar world of discovery disputes, court deadlines, billable hours, and difficult...

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