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Be a healthy lawyer

Special to the News Columns

Being a healthy lawyer is essential for both personal and professional reasons. It allows you to perform at your best, handle the demands of the legal profession, and provide the best possible service to your clients.

Jim Vickaryous

Jim Vickaryous

Back at work for the new year, I put on my suit and tie. My shirt collar was too snug, my suit tighter than I would like. I looked into the mirror and knew that this year’s me needs to slim down (or buy a bigger suit). I resolved to buy a new suit after losing some weight. If you are around people that care for you, it does not take long to get a comment about your health and how you look. My mother has always chided me, “Lose some weight, Jimmy.” Your family and friends want the best for you, after all. They want their lawyer loved one to be around for next year and beyond. In a lawyer’s daily work toiling to protect the interests of others, it is easy to forget that your health is elemental in being able to push out that work.

A modicum of health is necessary to be a competent lawyer. Health is a continuum, of course. It can be many things to many people, but it shows. To borrow United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s obscenity definition and apply it to health: “I know it when I see it.” Looking into the mirror you can see much about your health. I know healthy lawyers that get up at 5 a.m. and train for their next Ironman. I know healthy lawyers with disabilities that keep themselves mentally sharp and physically fit. The key to being a healthy lawyer, no matter our different physical abilities, is to keep our bodies fit enough that our brains remain sharp and clear for the benefit of our clients. An unclear, unhealthy mind reaps disaster for a lawyer.

Being a healthy lawyer is essential for both personal and professional reasons. As lawyers, we are constantly faced with high-stress demands and fast-paced work environments. This can take a toll on your health — both physical and mental. It is crucial to prioritize your wellness to have a successful and sustainable career in our profession.

There are numerous ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle, even as a lawyer. Primarily, it is imperative that you eat well. As a young soldier, I was meeting with my commander for an annual evaluation. He instructed me to lose some weight. As we trained together rigorously each day, I responded that I more than met my calisthenic regimen. He good naturedly smiled and said, “Lieutenant, no amount of exercise can compete with what you put in your mouth each day.” There are many ways to have a healthy diet. I won’t recommend any particular diet (or non-diet — such as fasting), as this changes for each person according to their age, preference, doctor’s orders, and faith.

The healthy lawyer effectively manages stress and understands that the legal profession involves a highly stressful environment with long hours and tight deadlines. It is vital to find healthy techniques to cope with stress. Something as simple as a quick break from the issue at hand will help. Over the long term, a lawyer needs a number of vacations a year to just let their brain rest and be occupied with other thoughts.

There are significant issues that can arise if a lawyer does not maintain good overall health. The most obvious is the risk of burnout. Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It’s a common problem in our profession, driven by our often-long work hours and high levels of pressure. Burnout can lead to a host of unforeseen consequences, including decreased productivity, decreased job satisfaction, and increased risk of mental-health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Difficulties can arise if a lawyer does not maintain good health, such as lack of focus and concentration. When you are not feeling well, it is difficult to focus on your work and make decisions. This can lead to mistakes and oversights, which can have serious consequences for clients. In addition, it can also lead to decreased efficiency, as it takes longer to complete tasks when you are not feeling your best.

Unhealthiness can also negatively affect personal relationships. If you are sick, it is difficult to be present and engaged in your personal life. This can lead to strained relationships with friends and family, which can further contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety.

A lack of good overall health can also have financial consequences. If you are frequently sick or unable to work due to health issues, you may miss out on income and opportunities. This can be especially problematic for self-employed lawyers, who may not have the same protections and benefits as those who work for a firm.

Being a healthy lawyer is essential for both personal and professional reasons. It allows you to perform at your best, handle the demands of the legal profession, and provide the best possible service to your clients. By prioritizing your health and well-being, you can sustain a successful and fulfilling career in the legal field.

The Florida Bar cares about your health, but perhaps not in the way you would desire. Rule 3-7.13, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, allows for a lawyer that is too unhealthy to practice law to be classified as an inactive member and is prohibited from further practice of law, “…even though no misconduct is alleged or proved.” Like everything else in life, if you don’t take action, someone else eventually will, and not necessarily in the manner you would prefer.

Being a healthy lawyer serves you, the courts, and especially those who depend on you and who would actually miss you if you were gone.  Let’s all resolve to be healthy lawyers.

Jim Vickaryous is the managing partner of the Vickaryous Law Firm in Lake Mary and represents the 18th Circuit on The Florida Bar Board of Governors. 

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