I gave a talk to a large group of attorneys at a state Public Defender’s office last week. It was a privilege to have them in the same room for an hour, as their schedules are very demanding. They were clearly stressed and struggling with work life balance all day every day.

They reminded me that they have little to no control over their caseload or schedules, that they are often the only people in the courtroom who are defending the accused, and that oftentimes their clients struggle with mental illness or substance abuse. Public defenders also wind up providing social service referrals and taking on the anxiety of their clients’ relatives.

It’s no walk in the park, that’s for sure.

I encouraged them to eat well, to engage in physical activity, to share their sense of humor, to celebrate small milestones and to use their vacation days without apology.

They chimed in with more gems that are worth repeating:

  • Have boundaries and let others know what they are.
  • Only promise what you can deliver.
  • Be clear about what your role is and is not.
  • Be honest.
  • Explain (briefly) why others may need to wait for next steps in the process.
  • Check to be sure that what was understood is what you intended to say.
  • Smile whenever possible.
  • Focus on what is in front of you.
  • Remind yourself that you have succeeded before, when facing setbacks.
  • Remember that people love you.
  • You deserve to be happy.
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