If you followed the NBA in recent years, you’ve probably heard the term load management being discussed. Essentially, it is a strategy teams are using to protect the health of their athletes. The idea, embraced by forward thinking coaches such as Steve Kerr and Greg Popovich, is that rather than have players participate in every single game of the grueling 82 game season, they proactively provide rest. They manage their work load.
On legal teams, we’re not so much concerned about physical injury, but mental burnout can be a real issue. It’s common knowledge that attorneys are some of the most stressed professionals in the U.S, and coupled with recent events, it’s understandable that the strain is higher than usual. Ask a lawyer to describe their professional life. If you’re a lawyer, take a moment and ask yourself the same. The words and phrases that immediately come to mind are probably things like “stressed out,” “workaholic culture,” or “who’s got time to answer this, we have hours to bill!”
Proactively Managing Fatigue
While the legal industry is based on transactional behaviors, addressing the mental well-being of lawyers and legal professionals is not a simple problem/solution transaction. Leaders should recognize that mental fatigue could manifest after years of practice, or be triggered by a significant life event (or really all of 2020). The point is employers and individuals can proactively address mental health by incorporating mental wellness as part of ongoing operational goals and plans. In the same way that coaches are the ones implementing plans to protect their athletes, managers can do the same for their legal teams.
Build a Bench and use it.
The good news is that the legal industry is changing. The full-time attorney is no longer the only option for highly specialized talent. Those same attorneys, with highly specific Fortune 500 and AmLaw 200 experience are now available to law firms and corporate legal departments on a flexible basis. And it’s not just top-tier attorney talent There are qualified legal administrators and paralegals that also work on a flexible basis. With flexible talent, you can build a bench of qualified pinch hitters. Providing rest for your full-time team doesn’t mean you won’t have players. It just means you can periodically rely on your bench so the whole team stays fresh, healthy, and operating at peak efficiency.
Every legal team is different, and building a bench is going to look different for each team. Some are going to need an army of qualified attorneys to offload repetitive legal tasks. Others are going to need a vetted group of high-level talent so they can offload critical projects in their entirety. Having a flexible administrative support staff to assist with a litigation matter or special project can make all the difference in keeping the entire team’s efficiency level high.
Manage for When it Matters Most
In the NBA, the real benefit of load management is the playoffs. This is when things really matter and teams need their best players at peak health. In the legal world, we don’t always have the luxury of knowing when the playoffs will occur. “Bet-the-Firm” legal situations can occur unexpectedly. When that happens, the last thing you want is a fatigued, over-stressed legal team. This is why managing workloads can be so important. Build a bench, use them, and keep your team ready for anything that comes down the road.
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