Letter to the Editor: The power of ‘no’ – Virginia Lawyers Weekly

Posted: October 7, 2019 at 9:43 am

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Dear Editor,

Thank you for publishing Dr. Shawn Healys piece on means of combatting lawyers stress (Under pressure, VLW, Sept. 30).

Members of our profession need to hear plain talk about a problem that besets us daily, sometimes with tragic consequences. But theres a glaring omission in his story, which presents six palliative measures to treat the symptoms but never even touches the underlying cause.

The cause is our collective inability to use the most empowering word in the English language: No. Lawyers have unwisely embraced the very scarcity mentality that Healy explores as it relates to our free time, but never touches when it comes to our incoming business. Too many of us think, in essence, I have to accept this new client because I might never get another one. We thus overload our schedules to the point that we dont have time to devote to the cases we already have, even as we suffer from the mounting stress.

It doesnt have to be that way. The judicious use of no is liberating. It allows you to have a life, including time for the precious sleep that Healy encourages.

I hear the howls of protest building. Yes, but I dont want my clients to desert me; Ill go broke. Yes, but my firm requires me to bill 2,000 hours a year. Yes, but Im a Public Defender and I have no control over my incoming clients. Okay, for that last group, saying no is a challenge. But for everyone else, youre just making excuses so that you can continue to torture yourself, all in an effort to maximize your income. Know that doing so carries a cost: Youre minimizing your life, measured by its quality and maybe by its duration, to say nothing of your own personal development.

Our profession suffers from elevated levels of stress, depression, and suicides. We do so because too many of us surrender to their own Yes, but excuses. You can do better than that. You can be better than that. You have a choice. Remember that youre a person first, and a lawyer second. The word is pronounced no.

Steve Emmert

Sykes & Bourdon

Virginia Beach

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Letter to the Editor: The power of 'no' - Virginia Lawyers Weekly

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October 7th, 2019 at 9:43 am