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With coffee and a fresh to-do list in hand, most days for most lawyers begin optimistically enough. Because of the adversarial nature of the law, however, a lawyer’s day is uniquely capable of turning into a train wreck. As Mike Tyson said to a reporter in the run-up to his fight against Evander Holyfield, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

We’ve all read about the rising rates of stress, anxiety, and depression among lawyers. The data is clear and compelling but the root causes of the mental health conditions that seem to inordinately affect lawyers—including many young lawyers—are uncertain. I’m not a mental health professional, nor do I pretend to play one on the internet, but in my experiences of both coaching young lawyers and having been one myself in a fast-paced law firm environment, it seems obvious that one of the primary sources of day-to-day stress is the fact that one’s expectations of how the day will go (the “plan”) almost always get derailed through someone else’s intervention (the “punch”). Chaos is always lurking, a mere phone call or email away.

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