By Hannah Anderson & Kayla Haines Herrin
This past year was full of roadblocks, mishaps, pivots and change.
The New York Times quoted Dean Baquet, the executive editor, as saying, “Certain years are so eventful they are regarded as pivotal in history, years when wars and slavery ended and deep generational fissures burst into the open.”
The year 2020 will certainly join the list.
Personally and professionally, it has been tough. As if billing requirements and personal commitments are not enough for a young attorney, throw a global pandemic into the mix and the stress begins to reach a boiling point.
Like many, when the shutdowns began, we began to worry about job safety. Will business slow down? Will our firms begin layoffs? The extra anxiety started to take a toll on everyone’s mental and emotional health.
It has been such a blessing that our practice areas were not negatively affected by COVID-19.
While we weren’t concerned about job security, the pandemic began to affect mental health in a different way. While attorneys at our firms were able to work from home, the struggle to balance work and life increased exponentially.
With the new “office” just a few steps from anywhere in the house, there was a constant perceived need to be plugged in to work.
Often, at 6 a.m., the thought was: “Let me just get through my inbox before I work out and make breakfast, then I will be able to dive right in once I really start working for the day.” Similarly, if a client emailed at 10 p.m. asking for something quick, there could be guilt about letting the request sit until the next day.
Then there’s the lack of regular social interaction. The concepts of “work” and “home” were more blurred than ever.
Many of the added pressures and anxieties are self-constructed and self-inflicted, but that rings true for many young attorneys trying to make their mark in the profession.
Fortunately, our firms were more than supportive through the wild year. We learned how important it is to regularly check in on our mental health and well-being, especially when we were feeling so isolated.
Mental health check-ins will look a little different for everyone, but hopefully, you all have taken a minute to evaluate where you stand and have given yourself a little grace.
Although 2020 was tough, much good has come out of this year. Many employers realized that associates can be productive while working from home, and that helped with schedule flexibility.
We hope 2020 brought blessings, big or small. If nothing else, we all can look back and see how much we endured, learned and grew.
From the Jacksonville Bar Association Young Lawyers Section, we wish you the happiest New Year and hope to see you (in person) soon.
Hannah Anderson is an associate attorney in the Jacksonville office of Coleman Talley. Her practice focuses on affordable housing, commercial real estate transactions and title insurance and real estate litigation.
Kayla Haines Herrin is on the board of governors of the Young Lawyers Section and an associate attorney at Smith Hulsey & Busey. Her practice focuses on mergers and acquisitions, general corporate law and governance and health care.