Litigation can be a tough and emotionally draining process, even for the most thick-skinned of cynics. But it can be particularly tough to stay sane and calm when you’re a “nice” person who somehow ended up working in litigation. In his Litigation Daily article, “10 Survival Tips for Nice People Who Happen to be Litigators,” Senior Counsel Dave Richardson outlines strategies that litigators can use to navigate the stresses of a litigation practice.
Far too many careers in litigation are ended by the stresses of short-term litigation battles. Survival in a litigation practice takes skills that are often counter-intuitive to a career that is centered on battles between hired guns. “Nice” litigators are more likely to take a professional battle personally, to toss and turn throughout sleepless nights while thinking of all the things they should have said, and to forget that normal human instincts – such as wanting to get along, or wanting to be liked – are weaknesses that some opponents will use to their advantage. But “nice” people can survive, and thrive, as litigators without compromising their personality.
Some of the survival skills that Richardson proposes are a matter of priorities, such as finding the time for exercise and sleep. Others require a committed effort to acquire a skill or achieve an understanding about our emotional responses, such as recognizing when your stress response to a dispute in litigation is a habitual response that has no connection to the specific dispute. Each conflict may seem important at the time, but from the perspective of a career in litigation, none of them matter in the slightest. “Learn as early in your career as you can that today’s conflict will be tomorrow’s barely-remembered war story, so that you don’t let the stress linger after the memory of the conflict is long gone,” Richardson writes. “As a wise Disney heroine advises, let it go.”