(Interview conducted on January 9, 2023)
Q: Thank you for joining the OBA civil litigation section. Could you tell me a little bit about your path through the legal profession?
A: I am a fourth-year associate in litigation at Torys. My practice focuses on commercial litigation and class actions, mostly in securities and employment law, but as I am still fairly junior, I work on a wide variety of cases.
Q: I’m going to come back to the fact that you’re a junior. But let’s start broad. What does burnout mean to you?
A: I have suffered from burnout on a number of occasions over the course of my career. It manifests differently for different people, but for me it’s usually a response to overwhelming work demands, including time, intellectual, and emotional commitments. Typically, it involves exhaustion, irritability, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, and apathy towards work, which can lead to apathy towards other parts of my life. When I’ve been burned out, I typically don’t have the energy to do anything except try to get through the work day. That leads to social withdrawal, which is a vicious cycle because it means I don’t have the energy to fully pursue the things that would normally help me alleviate the burnout.
Q: Could you tell me a bit more about what led to you identifying your burnout?
A: I’ve been diagnosed both with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, both of which before started articling. So I was attuned to mental illness before I started in the profession, and had strategies to deal with those illnesses. Burnout is related and frequently has a lot of the same symptoms as those mental illnesses. But what distinguishes burnout for me is that it is usually work-related. So when I’ve experienced burnout, it has often come following particularly busy times. In my experience, there’s a direct correlation between the number of hours I bill and my mental health issues.
But you don’t always realize you’re burned out right away. It takes time for me to come to grips with it. You get tunnel vision about getting through the next motion, production, trial, appeal, whatever. You’re so focused on that that you neglect how you’re feeling and the symptoms you’re experiencing. Often it’s not until I’m working my way out of the burnout that I’m like, “Wow, I really wasn’t in a good place.”