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Overcoming Burnout: How to Bounce Back After a Tough Year in Legal Ops

Budget cuts, layoffs, workplace chaos: sound familiar? Increased workloads with decreased resources made 2022 a long and challenging year, and contributed to increased legal ops burnout. And in case your job hasn’t been hard enough, 2023 appears to be coming for your budget, headcount, and tech stack as well.

The new year is underway, but there’s still plenty of time to take stock of the turmoil of 2022 and put some strategies in place for a healthier, happier year ahead. Here are some ways to prepare for the challenges coming your way in 2023.

Opening the Lines of Communication

Burnout is a well-known side effect of working in the legal field—but that doesn’t mean burning out is inevitable. By regularly taking stock of our energy levels, we can stave off some of the physiological side effects of stress that make hard situations even harder to deal with. Oftentimes that starts with being honest with ourselves—and others—about how much we can realistically handle.

Jessica Markowitz is the President & COO of Paragon Legal, a women-led company that works closely with in-house legal teams. She shared that many of Paragon’s clients choose to work with them after leaving organizations that didn’t allow for work-life balance.

“In my world, how do I see the best teams manage burnout? There’s a willingness for individuals on the team to ask for help and a willingness for leaders to listen and act,” Jessica said.

“Ultimately, the cost of burnout is high, and teams running on fumes can only operate in the short term. Alternatively, healthy teams encourage conversations about burnout, working together to find solutions that help everyone succeed long term.”

Replenishing Your Energy Reserves

Rest and relaxation are two distinct states of being, both of which are critical to rejuvenation and restoring our depleted energy levels.

Rest is when you’re as close to homeostasis as possible—and is the opposite of work in every sense of the word. Sleeping is the ideal form of rest, but sometimes our racing minds and ever-growing workflows make sleep elusive. In that case, even carving out a few minutes a day to close our eyes and focus on our breathing can help. Allowing your mind to settle for a few moments between bouts of juggling a dozen different tasks can be surprisingly helpful.

Relaxation is the way to beat burnout, and often comes from tickling parts of the brain that don’t usually get stimulated during the day-to-day. The more we expose ourselves to enjoyable experiences outside our daily grind, the more relaxed we feel. Taking up an after-work hobby, treating yourself to a long bath, or meeting up with an old friend are all great ways to break out of a stressful loop at work, truly relax, and overcome legal ops burnout.

Set Yourself Up for a Successful 2023

We can’t gain new perspective on a situation without stepping away from it—or approaching it from a different angle. If we can allow ourselves to rest and relax (separately!), we can begin to imagine what our ideal work environment might look like.

Before 2023 begins to pick up speed, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s my preferred communication style?
  • When have I felt most supported at work?
  • When am I most productive? Least productive?
  • Do meetings leave me refreshed or tired? How can I schedule meetings for maximum productivity?
  • A universal favorite: Which of my weekly meetings could just be an email?

The answers to these questions can help you start the year feeling in control of your time and energy. And by being proactive instead of reactive, you can establish routines that will help you avoid burnout and lead a more fulfilling professional life.

Remember: if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. For more helpful information, professional development tools, and introductions to insightful figures in the legal operations space, visit Brightflag’s Resources page.

Ciara McIvor

Team Lead, Professional Services at Brightflag

Ciara McIvor is the Team Lead of Professional Services at Brightflag. She holds a Master's Degree in Project Management from UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, and a Bachelor of Science (BS) Degree from Technological University Dublin. Ciara received a Project Management Professional (PMP) certificate from the Project Management Institute.