As a public sector attorney who has been out of school for around a decade and working at the same job for almost as long, the stress I feel at work is probably much different than the stress for attorneys who work at law firms. While it is true that I do not have the stress of billable hours or client development, there are still stress points.
My stress comes from a lack of engaging and interesting work. My stress comes from the fact that my job does not give me the opportunity to grow or improve as an attorney. My stress comes from the fact that I never had anyone look out for me or mentor me. My stress comes from seeing articles in the Daily Report discussing how high attorney salaries are getting in Atlanta. My stress comes from the fact that, while I have been promoted and received raises over the years, I still make $60,000 less than what a new associate can make at one of the big law firms in town.
My stress comes from the lack of an opportunity to move on to the private sector, either as in-house counsel or at a law firm. My stress comes from a multiyear job search where I have gone from being told “You need to get more experience before a law firm would hire you” to now being told “You have too much experience for an associate-level position. Someone who has been out of school for as long as you should have a book of business.” My stress comes not from getting burned out or fired from a high-stress position. My stress comes from never having a chance to challenge myself to be better.
How do I deal with it? Not very well. While I hope my experience is an extreme case, I fear it is not uncommon. My stress follows me home from my office. My stress has not only damaged my relationships with friends and family, but is has put a large strain on my marriage. My stress has turned me into a person I have trouble recognizing. My stress has put me into therapy where I talk about feeling trapped or stuck in a situation that will never improve because I will never get a better job. My stress makes me drink too much sometimes and has me taking anti-depression and anti-anxiety medication.
Despite it all, I pray and rely on my faith that it will get better. My stress will not win.
The Daily Report is withholding the name of this lawyer at the lawyer’s request.