How Lawyers Are Dealing with COVID Fatigue

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By Samantha Dorn, Staff Writer


“COVID fatigue” is the name given to the widespread mental exhaustion affecting many people due to the effects of the current pandemic. [1] This fatigue has been brought on by the “constant threat of illness, layoffs, and deaths while being denied our typical coping methods,” such as social gatherings or going out to eat or do other activities. [2]   Normally, stresses are not meant to be long-term; our psychological “fight or flight” responses are triggered and then we can use coping skills to calm ourselves when the stress ends. [3]   Our minds are not prepared to handle stress that lasts as long as the pandemic. [4]   As a result, people either “freeze” (become paralyzed in the face of a threat) or “faun” (give in to the threat), thus causing COVID fatigue. [5]


Many lawyers have stated in interviews that they and their staff are “feeling the effects of isolation” and miss being with their colleagues. [6]   As another wave of the coronavirus continues to spread, firms are preparing for a difficult season. [7]   Former litigator and licensed psychotherapist Stacey Dana told that people are reaching their tolerance limits “personally, relationally and professionally.” [8]   She says, “Winter can be a very challenging time for our mental health under the best of circumstances, and many are already feeling profound isolation and cabin fever.” [9]


As the pandemic continues into the foreseeable future, it is important that lawyers and staff strive to maintain connections with each other. [10]   Among other things, law firms should be supportive of their associates and staff by staying connected with employees, mentor associates to foster professional development, and recognize that staff may need accommodations for their mental health needs. [11]   Partners have also relied on communication through emails and Zoom meetings to keep others informed and engaged. [12]


Lawyers also need to maintain their ethical obligations to their clients and the court despite the temptation to let their guard down.  As one blog on JDSupra succinctly stated, “[t]he legal profession’s ethical rules do not contain exceptions for pandemics.” [13]   Despite the long work days and the weariness of isolation and social distancing, lawyers must continue to be competent, diligent, communicate effectively and timely, maintain confidentiality and properly supervise their associates and staff. [14]


While lawyers may not be able to avoid the additional stress that COVID-19 has brought, there are several healthy strategies that one can use to cope.  These include the following:


  • Exercise: It helps to release built-up energy due to stress and worry which helps in avoiding mistakes, and it releases endorphins that make us feel better. [15]
  • Mindfulness: Stopping to focus on a specific task, or nature, or one’s own breathing redirects focus to what is happening now and helps to dispel anxiety about what may happen in the future. [16]
  • Control the Amount of Media You Consume: It is important to stay informed, but being constantly inundated with news adds to COVID fatigue and desensitizes one to important warnings. [17] Therapist Nicole Yarmolkevich and psychologist Jacqueline K. Gollan recommend limiting the time spent watching the news and the number of news sources to monitor for information. [18]
  • Most importantly, if you are feeling depressed or anxious, seek out the help of a professional. [19]


[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.


[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.


[11] Id.

[12] Id.


[14] Id.


[16] Id.




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