Stress Relief for Attorneys


I have just received the current edition of  OhioLawyer magazine, and the cover story is entitled "The dangers of ATTORNEY STRESS".

The article contains some dismal statistics concerning lawyer suicide rates and depression rates.  It says that lawyers are ranked fourth in suicide by profession by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that lawyers are 3.6 time more likely to suffer depression than non-lawyers.

So, what does one do to correct these alarming statistics?  The article in OhioLawyer goes on to suggest a variety of solutions: 
1. Be aware of your emotional pulse;
2. Focus on what is truly important;
3. Set boundaries;
4. Rely on social supports; and
5. Seek professional help.

These are great suggestions, and I don't want to minimize them, but I can testify from personal experience that it is difficult to think clearly in the 'fog of battle' that depression creates.  So I offer my story for what it may be worth to you, dear reader, because I live a life of very little stress and lots of joy and peace while practicing law full time.

My depression came on toward the end of my second year of law school.  One day in April of 1976 I opened a law book at 8:00 a.m., and realized that I was on the same page at 4:00 p.m.!  Life had come to a standstill.  I became aware of my emotional pulse, and it was zero.

I was married and our son was four years old at the time.  We lived in the same town where I grew up, and my parents were still alive and were very supportive.  But I felt like a total failure, and I was unable to share my burden with family members who were counting on me to successfully complete law school.  I did seek counsel from the pastor of the church which we attended, and from that denomination's Family Services office, but to no avail.  Fortunately I had met some 'other residents of the university library' where I spent a LOT of time, and they noticed that I was 'down'.  It turned out that most of them were 'born-again Christians'.  I had never heard that label even though I was raised in a 'protestant' denominational church, and had joined the Roman Catholic Church at age nineteen.  But I noticed from my emotional fog that these people seemed to be alive and to genuinely care about me!

Most of them suggested that I needed 'to ask Jesus to come into my heart', and to live for Him rather than for myself.  That sounded unrealistic to me.  How could I live for someone I didn't know and could not see, when I could not successfully live for myself?

Then the last Christian on my list of acquaintances, named Lynn, chatted with me, and she told me that God had a message for me!  The message was Psalm  46:10.  My response to her was, "Which says.......?" - since I had never knowingly opened a Bible.  She opened a huge black Bible and pointed me to that passage:

Psalm 46:10  Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

She also gave me a 'Gospel Tract' - which is a little booklet with about eight pages published by Campus Crusade for Christ.  Their summary of the Christian 'Good News' was this:
1. God has a plan for your life;
2. But all of us have gone astray from God after our own ways.
3. God loves us so much that He sent His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to become a man, to live for 33 years as a man, yet without sin, to die on a Roman cross to pay for our sins, and to be raised from the dead to be the source of a new life for each and every person.
4. God has given us free-will as part of His loving creation, and honors that by allowing each and every person to choose whether to be reconciled to God by repenting for our sins, by receiving Jesus into our heart to be our Savior from sins and Lord of our lives, OR to continue on our paths away from God and continue to pay the consequences in the age and in eternity.

Eight pages with illustrations.  I read that little booklet, and was stunned.  I knew in my heart that it was true, but it was so radical that I needed to know more.  So, being in law school, I went to the reference desk of the library, and looked up other translations for "be still and know that I am God" since I know nothing about the Hebrew original text.  One translation caught my eye.  It said, "Stop resisting, and let me be God."  Another translation said, "Stop striving and know Me as your God."

It had never dawned on me that I was resisting God until I was told to stop resisting.  And likewise, it never dawned on me that I was striving to live successfully until I was told to stop striving!  I then spent about two weeks trying to figure out how to stop striving, and how to stop resisting God.  At the end of those two weeks I still had no answers to the question "How?", so I called the girl who had given me Psalm 46:10 and the Gospel Tract.  I figured that she was the one with the answers, and the only conclusion I had come to in those two weeks was that God could not do worse than I was doing in managing my life!

So we met in the second floor lounge in the Business Building of the university where I studied, and I asked Lynn what I should do next.  She said, "Get down on your knees, because you will be talking to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!"  I was impressed that this was a monumental moment in my life, so I got down in my knees with no though of what I was going to say to God.

When my knees touched the carpet twenty-six years worth of tears were released in a flood of weeping!  I cried and cried, not knowing why I was crying.  Lynn was there praying for me, but I could not hear what she was praying because of the sound of my wailing.  Eventually I ran out of tears, and got slowly to my feet, having not said a thing to God.  But the world seemed to be brand new, and I later realized that it was me who was brand new!  In response to the big grin on my face Lynn asked me what I was going to do next.  I told her that I was going to call my wife and tell her what had happened.  I did so, and she said, "The same thing happened to me several weeks ago, so come on home."  We have been together ever since, and that was thirty-seven years ago!

A short time later I heard on the radio a song called, "Tears Are A Language Which God Understands".  Enough said.

LIFE GOES ON

So, May 15, 1976 at 3:00 p.m. was a pivotal moment in my life, and I have never been the same since, and never wanted to go back.  A lot has happened, but suffice it to say that I was able to complete law school, and took the bar exam.  I discovered that the key prayer during the bar exam was, "Oh God, what's the answer?"  I would read a questions, pray that prayer, write what came to mind, and go on.  I believe that I was the happiest person taking the bar exam, and several of my fellow examinees asked me why I was so calm and peaceful.  I told them the story.

After happily and successfully completing the bar exam, I joined my lawyer father in his solo practice of law.  He had been so wounded by the heavy-handed religion of his parents that he didn't want to hear anything about my new 'religion'.  So I honored that request, and prayerfully tried to practice law with him as a 'Christian lawyer' but honoring his determination to ignore my new spiritual life.

One major spiritual thing I learned is that no one can serve both God and money.  So I made the determination that I would serve God and not money.  That was a scary decision, but looking back I was thus set free from time clock lawyering.

Another major spiritual factor came when I read in the Bible about the prophet Elijah pouring water on a 'burnt offering' he was making to God, and God sent fire and not only consumed the water and the sacrifice, He consumed everything surrounding the altar of sacrifice!  Therefore I determined that I would not advertise for clients, but I would trust God to bring me into contact with whomever He wanted me to serve, and that He would give me the grace to serve them in a way that was pleasing to Him and them.  As a result I have learned to trust God's faithfulness, and His grace to serve others in ways that I could never achieve by myself.  Just recently I had the privilege of serving as guardian for a man named John whose family and friends were unwilling or unable to help him when he became medically terminal with COPD.  My account of that adventure can be found at  John's passing .

Years ago another lawyer in my town heard someone refer to me as a 'Christian lawyer'.  He was puzzled by what that might mean, so he asked me to help him to understand what that might mean.  I told him that a client wanting a Christian lawyer probably wanted someone who had also received Jesus as Savior and Lord as the client had.  The client would also want excellent legal advice and service together with spiritual advice and service as the case may require.  I finished by saying that the client would probably also want the attorney to join with him or her in prayer.  The other lawyer told me that he would refer such clients to me!  <grin>

After twelve years of practicing law with my dad, he developed lung cancer.  I have given the details of his story on another page This Could Be The Last Time.   Dad battled the cancer for a year before coming to a terminal condition.  But he finally was desperate enough to ask me how to become a born-again Christian, was saved from his sins and passed away peacefully in his sleep.  So I was on my own as far as the practice of law goes.  I discovered that I had inherited a restriction on the practice of law of which I was unaware.  My dad had never done any real estate title searching, always farming his clients' need for title work to other attorneys.  But when I was on my own I realized that I enjoyed doing title work.  in 1989 I was able to become an attorney agent for a major title insurance company, and have done title work ever since as a major part of my practice of law.  I realized that there was a spiritual component to this limitation which I had inherited, which I describe and give more details about on another page called Imaginations.  Although I had been shown that imaginations or expectations are the cause of major problems in interpersonal relationships, I had not personally experienced the process of being set free from another person's expectations until I had the experience which I have just described after my dad passed on.  (Notice that I say 'passed on' rather than 'passed away'.  This is because I firmly believe that there is an afterlife in which some will enjoy God's grace and others will suffer the lack of God's grace by their own choice.  Please, dear reader, don't ignore this most important of issues!!!)

GOD KNOWS HOW TO MADE CONNECTIONS

I once received a phone call from a lady named Lilly in the Southeast US.  Her daughter had been killed in a car crash in Ohio where I live and practice law.  She had called the local clerk of courts to determine whether her son-in-law had done anything regarding her daughter's death, and found that nothing had been filed.  So she obtained a list of attorney phone numbers from the clerk's office, and began calling attorneys.  The first attorney to answer was me.  We discussed her legal needs, and then, before we disconnected the phone call, I told her that one of the optional services I offer my clients is prayer.  She was overwhelmed and told me that she had hoped to find a Christian lawyer, but had no idea how to go about finding one.  We had a nice time of praying for God's will to be done concerning her daughter's death, and the healing of her family member's emotional wounds, and we ended the phone call.  I took about a year and a half to get her daughter's estate and wrongful death claims settled, and Lilly, her husband Bob, and I have been friends ever since.

I could go on and on, and maybe someday I will, but suffice it to say that I have no regrets about be 'a Christian lawyer'.  I have met other Christian lawyers who have similar testimonies of how God intervened in their lives in times of trouble, and the improvements that have been made in their lives as a result.  I consider every day to be an adventure, and every person I meet to be a precious soul for whom Christ died!

IN CONCLUSION

One of my favorite songs is a slightly revised version of 'The Prayer Of St. Francis":

Make me a vessel of Your grace and truth;
where there is hatred let me bring Your love;
where there is injury Your healing, Lord,
and where there's doubt - true faith in You.

Make me a vessel of Your grace and truth;
where there's despair in life let me bring hope;
where there is darkness, only light,
and where there's sadness - ever joy!

Oh Master, grant that I may never seek
so much to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love with all my soul!

Make us all vessels of Your grace and truth;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
in giving to all men that we receive,
and in dying that we are born to eternal life!


I believe that my clients need all of these spiritual graces in addition to the sound legal advice and services which any attorney at law should provide.