Men High Fiving

Article by John R. Kormanik | Originally Posted on October 26, 2021

Burnout. It’s a real thing and it’s costing lawyers and their firms dearly. The thing of it is, if you think burnout is only related to your ever-increasing workload, you’ll be setting yourself up for a challenge because even if you reduce your workload, you or a member of your team may still suffer from burnout.

Burnout stinks.

There are actually 6 causes or contributors to burnout:

  • Workload
  • Control/Autonomy
  • Reward
  • Community
  • Fairness
  • Alignment with Values

Let’s take a look at each one in a bit more detail.


We all know an unsustainable and overwhelming level of work can lead to burnout. When you’re a busy lawyer, your workload can, at times, be seemingly out of control.

There is a few keys to effectively dealing with this cause of burnout.

  1. Recognize the seemingly out of control amount of work you are doing is (hopefully) a short-term thing. It will pass.
  2. Find balance in the long term. Don’t forget to take time to recharge yourself after a period of intense workload.


We can get burnt out more easily when we don’t believe we have control or autonomy in what we are doing.

Total autonomy requires several skills: acceptance, self-surrender, and self-generated desire. Let’s hit the last one. If you don’t feel like you have a high level of autonomy, you can create it! Here’s what I mean: we all have self-talk. When we tell ourselves we “have” or “need” to do something, we have very little sense of autonomy. On the other hand, if we “choose” or “get to” do something, even if that thing is a part of our job, we have an increased feeling of autonomy.

In short, autonomy can be created by EITHER:

  • Doing the things you want to do


  • Wanting to do the things you are compelled to do


At our hearts, we’re all just young kids who get a thrill getting a sticker for doing something during our day. I recently read that, according to a Princeton study, after about $75,000 in salary, money isn’t a terribly motivating factor in the context of a reward. This is so because our perceived basic needs are covered by that sum.

So, if you’re burnt out and either you’re over the $75,000 threshold, or an bonus or increased salary aren’t in the cards, think about how you can be rewarded for a job well done.


We are communal beings by nature. One of the things that is an antidote to burnout is having the right amount and type of interaction with others you work and interact with. Here are some possible areas to look at if you’re feeling burned out and community may be a contributing factor:

  • Desired Amount and Type of Social Interaction
  • Attitude Toward Working with Others
  • Influence of Others – Dealing with Catabolic Relationships and Cultures
  • Ability to Communicated With, and Influence Others
  • Presence of Desired Support Systems and Someone to be Accountable to


This one’s kind of a no-brainer. It we perceive something as unfair, it’s a trigger to burnout, especially if we perceive a consistent unfairness.

Alignment with Values:

Do you have your core values written down? Have you taken the time to think about what they are? If what we’re doing is not aligned with our core values, burnout cannot be too far away because misalignment between tasks and our core values creates an insurmountable internal conflict. This results in a constant internal battle which is bound to lead to burnout.

The next time you’re feeling burnout, think about which of the causes are present and, then, take action! You may not be able to change one or two of them, but if you improve the others, you’ll be less likely to suffer burnout and, instead, turn yourself into a peak performer.