Law \ Legal

When Is Enough Enough? – Above the LawAbove the Law

Overworked and stressed!As an in-house lawyer, you will undoubtedly be asked to do many things and wear many “hats.” Wearing more than one hat at any one time can be challenging at best. If you are confident that you can wear multiple hats well and without a negative impact on your work or your mental and physical health, good for you. Keep doing what you are doing and stop reading right here.

If, however, you are one of the many in-house lawyers today who is wearing multiple hats and feeling either that you are not wearing all of your hats well or that you have put your physical or mental health at risk to wear all the hats you wear, you should probably keep the following in mind:

  • You are a lawyer first and foremost. You have more than a job to protect. You have a bar license.
  • When you do more than one thing at any given time, you will likely do both things only half as well.
  • You have a responsibility to yourself, your family, your co-workers, and your employer to be the best version of yourself at home and at work.
  • You have to be self-aware enough to know what boundaries you need to ensure maximum success.
  • You need to communicate those boundaries to your family, your co-workers, and you employer.
  • If, by establishing these boundaries, it means you have to turn in one or more of your many hats, so be it.

If you are doing these things, you are not a mediocre employee who is just doing what you need to do to get by. You are a self-aware employee who knows what to do to achieve maximum result for your employer and your family.

So how do you hand a “hat” back?

You communicate with your employer.

You explain to your supervisor why you are unable to accept the added role. During that discussion, you may want to talk about your workload, capacity, and availability. You may also may want to explain why the new role could interfere or conflict with your current role.

You communicate in a timely fashion with your employer.

You schedule your discussion regarding your concerns as soon as possible. You give your supervisor as much time as possible to find an alternative solution.

You communicate fully, openly, and honestly with your employer.

You speak fully and honestly with your supervisor. You must avoid embellishing or exaggerating any issues.

You explain the impact to your employer.

You explain how the new role will affect the quality of the work you are currently assigned to do.

You ask for help if and when you need it.

If you think you can handle an additional role, but with additional resources, be sure to let your supervisor know that, too.

In my experience, lawyers have a tendency to put undue pressure on themselves to deliver results and exceed expectations. If you want to make it as an in-house lawyer, but are struggling to balance multiple hats, say something. Leaving doesn’t have to be the only answer.

Maybe you just have to hand some of your hats back.

Lisa-Lang_241Lisa Lang is an in-house lawyer and thought leader who is passionate about all things in-house.  She has recently launched a website and blog Why This, Not That™ to serve as a resource for in-house lawyers.  You can e-mail her at, connect with her on LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter.

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