OBA Civil Litigation Section Insider: Burnout

  • March 13, 2023
  • Adil Abdulla

Being a litigator is hard, and not just because of the long hours. We have to be forceful advocates andcover of the Civil Litigation newsletter on Burnout consummate professionals, even when representing problematic positions or facing off against frustrating foes. We have limited control over our time, especially when we are dealing with urgent motions or, for younger lawyers, the schedules and demands of partners. In a virtual environment, it is often difficult to build community and support networks. All those layers on top of our pre-existing family obligations, self-care needs, and other mental health challenges to generate the subject of this issue: burnout.

We start with two interviews with lawyers about their personal experiences with burnout. Erin Durant was a partner at BLG in Ottawa, left due to burnout, and then founded her own firm. Craig Gilchrist is a fourth-year associate at Torys. They discuss a wide variety of challenges with burnout that arise at different stages of a legal career. 

Then, we have three interviews with registered psychotherapists. Jordana Bergman, Kara Hardin, Melanie Goela, and Ellen Schlesinger are all former lawyers who have built their own clinics working predominantly or exclusively with lawyers. They each share advice on how to identify burnout, prevent it, and recover from it.

All interviewees also provide resources on burnout in the legal profession. We encourage readers who are, or are at risk of experiencing burnout, to consider checking out these resources, or contacting professionals like Jordana, Kara, Melanie, and Ellen.

We also encourage readers who are leaders in the profession – especially partners at big firms – to look at these resources and the interviewees’ recommendations, and then take action to effect institutional changes. Burnout is a systemic problem, many of the solutions to which can only be implemented at an institutional level. Law firms have moral, and arguably professional obligations to address burnout in the workplace. More needs to be done to discharge those duties. 

Finally, I’d like to thank the team that made this newsletter possible: Crystal Park, Emily Sinkins, Rachel Migicovsky, Ranjan Das, and Terrine Bird. Here’s hoping that your efforts will spark a broader conversation about burnout and mental health. 

- Adil Abdulla, OBA Civil Litigation Section newsletter editor