Elizabeth Adams

Elizabeth Adams (not her real name) is a recent law school graduate, former federal judicial clerk, and aspiring health guru. She currently practices insurance coverage litigation at a mid-sized law firm. When she isn't sitting at a desk -- which isn’t very often -- she is following her bliss. At the moment, this mainly involves working toward becoming a certified yoga teacher. Elizabeth’s column focuses on exploring how and whether lawyers can achieve a sustainable work-life balance. She can be reached at liz.adams.atl@gmail.com.

Posts by Elizabeth Adams

For all my talk about finding a healthy work life balance based on doing stuff, I’m here to report that there is a very real limit to how much you can actually do.  This limit is dictated by your need to sleep.

Unfortunately, in the last month I had to learn this lesson the hard way.  With work becoming increasingly busy and having taken on one too many outside projects, I was averaging about five hours a night for a full four weeks.  Throughout this time, the effects of sleep deprivation slowly began to destroy my life.

To be fair, I was able to get by okay in the first week.  By week two, however, coffee stopped having any meaningful effect and my ability to focus diminished greatly.  Things continued in slow decline, and, toward the end of the month I had become so sensitive to sensory stimuli that I was unable to work without turning off the lights in my office and donning a pair of earplugs. This, of course, worked wonders for my reputation around the office.

Fortunately, around the time things started getting really bad, my work eased up and I was able to catch up on my sleep.  That said, this period of sleep deprivation isn’t one I will soon forget…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Feeling Brain Dead? You Probably Need More Sleep”

The effect that sitting has on your ability to breathe is a serious and underappreciated problem.  In fact, it’s so underappreciated that you probably don’t even realize it’s a problem for you at all.  Don’t believe me?  Just think back to any day this week between 3 and 4 p.m. in the afternoon.  Imagine how you felt at this time.  Extremely tired? Perhaps a little bit dizzy? About ready to pass out on your keyboard?

Although your symptoms could be attributed to the burrito you ate for lunch, or the fact that you pulled an all-nighter drafting an overdue motion for summary judgment, another possibility is that you simply aren’t breathing enough.  As a result, your body may be starved for oxygen.  But why does this occur?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Feeling Sedated? Get Your Blood Oxygenated!”

Perhaps the single most underappreciated problem with the practice of law is the physical discomfort that comes from sitting for 10 to 12 hours each day.

If you’re like me, your problems begin within just a few hours of getting settled at your desk. As early as mid-morning, you start to experience a dull ache between your shoulder blades.  By lunchtime, this ache has turned into a throbbing pain that is creeping up your mid-back and into your shoulders and neck.  Next thing you know, it has engulfed your entire upper body, and by the time you’re ready to leave for the day, it has even spread to your lower extremities.  After limping your way home, things have gotten so bad that you have no choice but to curl up in fetal position and have a good cry.  Sound familiar?

If so, I have good and bad news for you.  First, for the bad news: from an anatomical perspective, your pain is inevitable.  Indeed, as it probably has become obvious to you, the human body is not meant to sit in a chair all day…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Does Your Desk Job Hurt? How To Prevent Pain Associated With Sitting”


Want to live forever? Try some yoga.

If you’re like me, you might find that practicing law sometimes feels like a questionable way to spend the best years of your life.  As I have previously noted, legal work is both extremely stressful and incredibly boring.  Moreover, it requires lots of hard work, often to the exclusion of other, perhaps more meaningful, life pursuits.  Given all of these difficulties, I sometimes can’t help but wonder: is life is too short to be a lawyer?

Depending on your feelings about your job, this inquiry may or may not send you careening into an existential crisis.  But before you get too carried away, let’s get real.  You have student loans to pay and, more importantly, probably a family to feed.  And although quitting your job to open a bed and breakfast in South America may seem like a great idea on House Hunters, unless you are comfortable living off $20,000 a year, this probably isn’t a realistic option for you.

Assuming you are stuck in your law job for the long haul, what can you do to make the most out of your life?  While I have previously discussed ways to achieve a more satisfactory work-life balance, the unpleasant reality about these suggestions is that we are all limited by the number of hours in each day.  While I think these suggestions work, they obviously cannot eliminate the underlying problem, which is that you probably spend most of your waking life in your office.  Assuming we can’t add hours to each day, how about adding years to our lives?  How about living forever??

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Want To Outlive Your Law Job? Here’s How…”

Sadly, lawyers are a group vulnerable to succumbing to addictions.  In fact, according to one study, while 10% of the general population suffers from alcohol addiction, this number increases to 20% among lawyers.  That’s right: one in five lawyers are alcoholics.  At this point, you may be starting to wonder who in your firm proves this statistic.  I would advise against this game, however.  Although it may seem mildly entertaining at first, you’ll quickly realize that it’s actually pretty sick.  This is because, of course, the statistic is true.

I remember being warned about the problem of substance abuse in the legal profession during the first week of 1L orientation when we watched a video about addicted attorneys. Unfortunately, this movie — which followed high functioning alcoholics and a woman with a shopping problem — failed to have its intended effect.  That is, instead of scaring me away from drugs and alcohol, the film left me with the misguided impression that being a lawyer is easy.  After all, if those people could practice law when they were completely wasted, doing it sober must be a breeze.

Notwithstanding my experience during 1L orientation, I do realize that drug and alcohol abuse is a serious issue in our profession, and not one to be taken lightly.  If you or anyone you know has dealt with an addiction, you know how hard it can be. The question is, why are lawyers at such a high risk?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Think You Have An Addictive Personality? Steps You Can Take To Avoid The Worst”

As any practicing lawyer learns within about a week of beginning her career, the concept of the work/life balance is sort of a fiction. Practically speaking, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to achieve any sort of actual, equal balance between your life and your work. Think about it: assuming you spend at least ten hours at work each day and seven hours asleep, this leaves only seven waking hours to accomplish everything else in your life — feeding yourself, commuting, spending time with your family, brushing your teeth, exercising, reading Above the Law, and pursuing other hobbies, like making crayon drawings for your office.

Although seven hours sounds like a lot of time, we all know that it goes by way too fast. At least for me, after I have taken care of my major life necessities, I only have about an hour left over at the end of my day to enjoy my “life.” Sadly, this time is usually spent complaining about the fact that I have to go to work the next day and do it all over again — is there no rest for the weary???

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Want A Better Work/Life Balance? How To Spend More Time Chilling When You’re Done Billing”

Ed. note: Please welcome Elizabeth Adams, who will be covering health and wellness in the legal profession. You can read her full bio at the end of this post.

Ever wonder what the secret to happiness is? Landing a Biglaw job? Making partner? Saving your innocent cousin from wrongful conviction for a convenience store robbery in the small town south? Whether you’re a currently-miserable attorney who’s pinning her hopes for happiness on eventual career success, or a veteran attorney who could stand to be a bit more happy, I have both bad and good news for you.  The bad news: you may have to look beyond the bounds of your career for the additional keys to lasting happiness.  The good news: doing so is easy! But how could this be, you ask?

I found some clues to the answer in a book I just finished reading called A Life Worth Breathing (affiliate link), written by Julian Assange doppelganger (see cover photo), yoga teacher, and self-proclaimed “innovator,” Max Strom.  To be honest, I was initially pretty skeptical of the book. From the title alone, I could tell how much heavy eye-rolling was likely in store for me.  And — just to be clear — the book did prove chock-full of more than its fair share of what my father would call “illogically formulated and poorly communicated hippie hooey.”

That said, A Life Worth Breathing did deliver a few precious nuggets of information valuable enough to make the whole undertaking worthwhile…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Finding Happiness As A Lawyer: Three Pillars And A Box Of Crayons”

Ed. note: Please welcome Elizabeth Adams, who will be covering health and wellness in the legal profession. You can read her full bio at the end of this post.

Ever feel like your brain is going to explode from too much information? I don’t mean too much information in the qualitative sense (e.g., information about your husband’s gastrointestinal problems or your boss’s sex life). The TMI I’m talking about is quantitative, like you literally have too much data in your short-term memory bank.

If you practice law, it’s likely you have suffered a quantitative TMI crisis at one point or another. It happens when your brain is forced to process more information than it can handle, perhaps because you have pulled an all-nighter to meet a filing deadline or because a partner has asked one too many questions about a case he just handed you.

Regardless of the cause, the feeling of information overload is unmistakable: your brain is completely overwhelmed, and you may start to confuse information or forget it entirely. Add fatigue and a couple cups of coffee into the mix, and things can get really ugly. You become irritable and withdrawn, snarling at anyone who dares to enter your office.

At a certain point, if you want to avoid a complete mental meltdown — not to mention a reputation as the crazy person who is always muttering about filing deadlines in the hallway — you must do something to slow down and de-clutter your mind. But what, exactly, can you do?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Too Much Information? Time For Meditation!”

Ed. note: Please welcome Elizabeth Adams, who will be covering health and wellness in the legal profession. You can read her full bio at the end of this post.

It’s virtually impossible to get decent advice about whether to go to law school.  On the one hand, you have advice from non-lawyers, like your mom, who will promise you that even if you don’t like it, you can do anything with a law degree.  On the other hand, you have advice from actual lawyers, who will tell you the exact opposite.  I, like many others, made the decision to listen to my mom rather than the many, many practicing attorneys who warned me about the realities of the profession.  Although this somehow seemed like a rational choice at the time, I realize, in retrospect, I should have taken the advice of counsel.

It’s true, being a lawyer is hard. Even on a good day it is both extremely boring and highly stressful — a unique combination found in few other jobs.  Equally troubling to me, however, is the toll it takes on your body. Indeed, recent studies have shown that sitting as much as lawyers do is bad for the body, and the physical effects of sleep deprivation are well documented and pretty serious.   Of course, I don’t need scientific studies to confirm what appears obvious to me on a daily basis.  Many lawyers I encounter seem perpetually exhausted and sort of sickly.  Some are much worse than that, appearing as if they are in need of urgent medical attention.   Lawyers, it seems, are literally dying at their desks…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Think Your Job Is Killing You? How To Survive The Profession In 3 Easy Steps”

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