Coping with the psychological challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic

By NJSBA Staff posted 03-25-2020 10:43


The legal profession is replete with pressures, but with the additional challenge presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, both physical and mental, there’s no better time to take steps to strengthen a sense of well-being.


A number of legal websites offer useful advice. Patrick Krill, founder of Krill Strategies, a behavioral health consulting firm focused exclusively on the legal industry, recently wrote that “it’s important to recognize that anxiety and panic rarely lead to good decision-making or improved circumstances, but frequently lead to fatigue, emotional exhaustion and retrospectively disproportionate despair and energy expenditure.”


Among Krill’s suggestions: limit exposure to “emotionally disruptive cues” such as frequent push notifications, social media posts and news headlines, but to not totally ignore the news.


With more lawyers working from home because of social distancing measures and stay-at-home orders, feelings of stress, anxiety and depression —already reported at higher levels among lawyers, according to studies—social connection is more important than ever. Krill suggested lawyers schedule phone or video check-ins with family and friends.


Another article suggests law firms consider frequent staff check-ins to promote social connection despite the physical disconnection by using “group calls or video conferences, a quick Skype or a Slack message to say, ‘Hi! I’m signing on for the day,’ or ‘Hello! I’m taking a break for lunch,’ the same way you might if you were to drop by someone’s office.”


Compassion is imperative at this time. In the same article, Jarrod F. Reich, a legal practice professor at Georgetown Law, said attorneys‑ who are typically high-achieving perfectionists‑need to show compassion toward themselves, and law firm management must show compassion for their lawyers and staff, “providing flexibility if some are not able to complete tasks in the usual amount of time and communicating empathetically with them.”


Other resources include:


The New Jersey Lawyers Assistance Program, 800-246-5527, is a free and confidential resource available for all New Jersey lawyers, judges, law students and law graduates


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offers information on Covid-19 and guidance for stress and coping during this crisis. “Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about and your community stronger,” it said.


NJ Mental Health Cares, New Jersey’s behavioral health information and referral system, 866-202-HELP (4357) for free, confidential support by trained specialists from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

Many drug/alcohol recovery meetings and resources have gone virtual: