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LCN Says

Exercise and wellbeing: how to sustain a successful legal career

updated on 18 August 2020

With the academic year and application season approaching, it is important to build wellness and self-care practices into our routine. Regular exercise is known to be key to living a healthier life – but its benefits are more than just physical. Consistent exercise provides mental health benefits for law students and lawyers, given the demands of legal work.

As a student, I understand it might sometimes feel as though life could not get busier. Juggling university, a part-time job, applications, extra-curriculars and daily activity can feel overwhelming. But I am a big proponent of balance and exercise is a crucial part of this.

Some of the benefits of exercise on our wellbeing include the following:

  • Improved mood – exercise causes your body to release endorphins that can improve your mood. For example, a ‘runner’s high’.
  • Reduced stress – exercise can reduce stress levels and be a form of relief, building emotional resilience.
  • Better sleep – regular exercise helps you fall asleep faster and improve sleep quality. Good sleep has also been shown to boost your immune system.

Exercise also demonstrates the following key transferable skills, which can benefit your applications too!

  • Accountability – you have set a goal, created a plan of action and are answerable for your actions. Lawyers are accountable to clients and for meeting the firm’s business goals.
  • Self-development – there is a natural relationship between exercise and personal development, as exercise strengthens your body and your mind. Lawyers are constantly in pursuit of knowledge to stay up to date in their industry and practice area and gain competitive advantage.
  • Self-motivation – you may not feel like exercising after a long day of studying/working, but you will often feel better having done so. Overcoming boundaries and being self-motivated shows that you can respond well to challenges, such as working long hours as a lawyer.
  • Commitment – setting yourself a schedule and executing it shows that you are disciplined and determined to achieve your goals. Lawyers are committed to the profession and providing the best service for their clients.
  • Communication – team sports are a perfect way to demonstrate communication skills and an ability to work well with others. Lawyers must collaborate with colleagues and partners in their firm, as well as build relationships with clients.
  • Organisation – fitting exercise classes into your schedule along with studying, part-time work, and extra-curricular activities requires planning. The ability to prioritise and remain focused among competing priorities is essential as a lawyer.
  • Confidence – exercise has been proven to boost self-esteem and wellbeing. Law is a challenging career that requires resilience and self-confidence. Having confidence in your own ability is a crucial skill to demonstrate during any application cycle and as a lawyer.
  • Routine exercise also improves cognitive function, an essential skill for both law students and lawyers.

By aligning exercise with your career ambitions, you will realise that exercise takes on a greater meaning. You can incorporate exercise into your daily routine by making small adjustments. This will help to maintain a healthy lifestyle that can extend into your legal career.

I have danced since I was three years old, and so it has long been part of my routine to get up and go to a dance class or the gym. I prefer to start my day with a workout and enhance my productivity. As a fitness instructor, it is also my job to keep fit and healthy. But I recognise this is not for everyone.

However, even in the midst of a pandemic, you can control the controllables. The physical and mental health of law students and lawyers can be neglected due to the intense workload. Here are some tips to help you to incorporate exercise into your routine.

  • Listen to your legal podcasts while taking a walk – among my favourites are ‘Wake Up To Money’, ‘The Economist’, ‘The LawCareers.Net Podcast’ and ‘More From Law with Harry Clark’.
  • Join a team/society at university – investigate what societies your university offers or start your own! Many gyms also offer student discounts.
  • Take a (virtual) class – having a training session on your calendar might just be the motivation you need. The group atmosphere will also allow you to interact with others.
  • Follow along with online exercise videos – yoga, boxing, Pilates, barre, dance – many instructors are offering online content, which you can try out at a time convenient for you.
  • Tackle household chores – in addition to the post-workout endorphins, you will also feel a sense of accomplishment after cleaning the house! 
  • Break up your workout into more manageable chunks – there are seven-minute workout apps that you can do from the comfort of your own bedroom, using just your bodyweight. We can all spare seven minutes a day! Start small and build from here.

Exercise is just one form of wellbeing. You might have found yourself with more time during the covid-19 pandemic; perhaps you rediscovered your passion for drawing or realised new skills you never knew you had. Keep up these activities and wellbeing practices as you return to university or work – they make you, you.

I have attended numerous webinars and online events during the covid-19 pandemic. The key take-away I have for you is that employers want to recruit and work with people. Having a passion or hobby makes you a more well-rounded person and gives you a personality. This helps you to stand out among the multitude of applications.

Remember – a career in the legal profession is a marathon, not a sprint. If you want to sustain a successful and fulfilled legal career, your wellbeing must be a priority. It is cliché but true – you cannot pour from an empty cup.

Maisie Hodges is a MSc student and recent LPC graduate. Having worked in a family run business for five years, she has a passion for business and is seeking a career in a commercial law firm. Maisie can be found on LinkedIn.