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Why High Exhaustion Makes You A Legal Liability And What To Do About It

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

As a woman who’s spent nearly 25 years in the legal sector achieving double-digit pay rises and promotions, I was on a fast track – but then I questioned, “A fast track to where, and at what cost?”

Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

What if I had learnt how to choose my next role or how my unique distinctiveness could have allowed me to shine in each of those roles?

What if I had understood the realities of high performance and its inextricable dependency on wellbeing (not exhaustion)?

What does this exhaustion look like? You wake up and go to work. By 10am you’ve received a second frantic phone call and a fifteenth email. You’re super busy, and too busy to question what you’re busy doing. Every day is Groundhog Day.

Status quo

It’s time to challenge the status quo. I’ve launched the Water+Air podcast (more on the name later) so that you can benefit from my experience in a way that you can hear and understand, from one lawyer to another.

Many of you will have read inspiring books, listened to podcasts but then forgotten all about them as every day is “so busy”. Every so often you return to a book or inspirational speaker to recharge your inspiration tank but you feel

“too busy to take action”.

My story

I’m not going to lie, throughout the early years of practising law I wore my long hours and big deals like a badge of honour. I had no idea that my attitude was holding me back from the one thing I wanted more than anything: to be an excellent lawyer and deliver outstanding outcomes for my clients.

In 2009 I stopped practising law, and when I returned a few years later, it was a whole different experience (for me and those I worked with) – but all of this has put me in a unique position. Now I can turn my bumps and bruises, eclectic experiences and knowledge, into ladders for other lawyers who are navigating their careers.

There are countless instances that show us the true impact of exhaustion, of tiredness and rushing. It has a negative impact on our cognitive and physical performances. Long term it causes fatigue, reduced enthusiasm and motivation; that’s a poor future. I’m not going to let you fall down that hole.

Our clients are vulnerable; they’re trusting us with the future of their families and their companies. We owe it to them to bring our best selves, not our most inflated selves bearing the bragging rights of little sleep and long hours. That makes us a liability.

Think of the impact that this has on the teams and the people around us (thank goodness for their forgiveness).

Time to question

Imagine if you were booked in for surgery. Would you prefer the surgery to be carried out by a team who is fresh and well rested? Or by the team who has just completed another ten-hour surgery after the fourth night of restless sleep?

Historically, high-exhaustion performance in lawyers is par for the course. It has been like that for generations before us, but can you imagine if we took that same approach to asbestos in buildings? What if we still advocated using cocaine to soothe teething in babies? Or what if we suggested swallowing tapeworms to manage weight?

These methods are now known to be DEADLY DANGEROUS! Similarly, I am now equipped with better information and solutions that will improve your career experience. I have to share them, especially now we have the next generation, Gen-Z, pushing us to step up and change the game. They are no longer willing to accept the high-exhaustion performance plan; it’s time to start shifting to wellbeing-powered performance. Performance Optimisation is the next level. It may feel counter-intuitive and counter-cultural. But it is attainable and within reach with just a little, consistent effort.

The warning lights

I want you to challenge your assumptions about the “unbreakability” of your high-exhaustion cycle. It’s time to question the “too busy” status, because that only serves to keep you too busy to think slowly or purposefully. It’s a bright, gleaming indicator of a high-exhaustion lifestyle; deep down, you already know this, and you’re numbed to it because it’s been the norm for so long.

Simple things

However, we underestimate the simple things that play an instrumental role in the outcome of our careers. By getting to grips with what these simple things are for each of us, we can achieve a better version of success.

I named our podcast Water+Air because those two things are perfect examples of how nature’s simple things allow life on earth to exist; ordinary things that we take for granted have a big impact on our career, lifestyle and those around us.

Find your joy

I challenge you to do one small thing that will make your professional career work better for you; it will allow you to start releasing your own “extraordinary”.

If you aren’t sure where to begin, think about what brings you joy; the type of joy and satisfaction you experience after a good workout at the gym where you have given it your all but without pulling a muscle.

It might be as simple as:

  • Blocking out five minutes every hour to stop and focus on your breathing.

  • Taking a break to chat with colleagues.

  • Spending a few minutes at the end of the day to assess what went well and how it made you feel.

We’re all different. Some of us feel energised and empowered when we create lists, but others feel dragged down and want to be more free-spirited. Find what works for you. Experiment with new ideas.

Unlock your spark of joy; it’s the everyday ordinary that delivers extraordinary outcomes.


The short-term impact of being powered by wellbeing is that we reduce errors, frustration and exhaustion, all of which enables us to move closer to optimal levels of performance; think of what’s possible in the long term!

Do you have some helpful wellbeing tips that you would love to share with other people? Leave your comments in the box below. Let’s help each other.

I established my organisation, Fuel+Move, to help lawyers power up their wellbeing and optimise their professional performance. Get in touch to find out how we can support you.

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