LM Extras Nov 8, 2022

Managing HR in Your Firm? Let’s Talk About Your Burnout

The term burnout exemplifies a chronic syndrome of being completely overwhelmed with a great deal of stress and anxiety while maintaining a career. Sound familiar? It’s a common factor that engulfs employees mentally, psychologically and sometimes physically. 

Isi Frank Ativie

You’re used to having to guide firm staff through these challenges. But in a year that’s been a revolving door of onboarding, offboarding and searching for candidates to fill the spots vacated by employees during the Great Resignation — not to mention the last two years of being the communicator of all things pandemic at your firm — you’re likely feeling fairly burned out yourself.  

Many of you may have decided to pursue this particular career to help individuals, encourage more diversity and make significant differences within your legal organization. However, it can be an overwhelming endeavor: A recent survey reveals that 98% of HR professionals are burned out after 18 months.

“It’s hard not to get attached to the difference that you can make,” says David Shar, MPS, SHRM-SCP, Founder of Illuminate PMC; he’s also presented for ALA in the past. “So in that way, it’s very much a helping profession.”  

Fortunately, there are some tips and resources to help you avoid or work through bouts of burnout.


Everyone wants to perform extraordinarily well at their jobs by giving every ounce of great effort. But this mindset sometimes can be debilitating to your mind and soul, especially when playing mediator or listening to the frustrations of staff. Fight the urge to internalize that negativity. Be the positive change you want to see within your office, says Shar. 

“One of the primary symptoms of burnout is cynicism,” says Shar. “And what comes with cynicism is depersonalization where we stop seeing the employees and we start seeing the employee numbers. We put up these barriers between us and our [staff]. And we start separating ourselves from them. It’s actually to protect ourselves psychologically because we’re burned out, so we’re emotionally exhausted, and we feel this reduced sense of personal accomplishment. And so we put up these walls between us and them.”      

Remember why you got into the human resources industry. Reconnect with the meaning of your work that drove you to the profession in the first place, and believe in the critical role you play within your legal organization. 


Receiving moral and external support from other HR professionals is a great resource. Isolation can affect one’s psyche. Generating a family-oriented structure is a great way to thrive in the HR field.

“It’s important to reconnect with the meaning of your work and believe in the critical role you play within your legal organization.” 

“HR, unlike some roles, can be very much a lonely island,” says Shar. “So if you have multiple people within HR or other managers that you can speak with and get support from, that's a big step.”

And ALA has an HR “family” available at your fingertips: Just join the Human Resources discussion in the Online Community. Nobody understands what it's like to be an HR manager in a legal organization quite like those who do the same.


You likely talk about work/life balance within your firm. However, don’t forget to take that advice to heart. After regularly absorbing the stresses of the firm and staff, it’s important to unplug yourself. Focusing on work 24/7 can psychologically overburden you to a high degree. You need that equilibrium of being invested, while also detaching when off the clock.

“There’s two types of passion,” Shar says. “There’s a positive passion, which is harmonious passion, and there’s an obsessive passion which is a negative passion — almost a workaholism but it comes from love. It’s really important that [you] know when to turn things off,” Shar says.

He suggests making time to dedicate toward family, friends, a hobby or a walk in the park, since work will still be there after you’ve given yourself a break. “[You] really need to give [yourself] opportunities to balance and walk away for [your] own mental health. The workaholism and obsessive passion of always needing to be on is extremely unhealthy.”