So often I am asked, “How can I recognise when someone I work with is feeling burnt out?”


This is a great question! When I hear it, I get excited because there are many law firms who are in denial, and do not realise that their employees are human, and we may be pushing them too far.

If we can spot the signs of burnout, and do something about it, we can prevent burnout before it is too late.


I was one of those people. I was working in a large fast paced, fast growth organisation in London. It was all about targets, targets, targets. I did not feel as though I was treated like a human. We would achieve our targets, then the expectations would increase.

I was fatigued!

I was feeling overwhelmed!

I was drained, both emotionally and physically!

I doubted my decisions and the standard of my work!

I made mistakes!


If we can intervene and help those in our practice before they get to this stage, we can prevent the same feelings I had.


The signs

There are obvious signs of burnout we can recognise in ourselves and others in the workplace. Here are the 3 key signs to look out for:

  1. Physical and emotional exhaustion.
    Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I didn’t realise I was burnt out when I was working in the fast-paced organisation in London in the 90’s. I was exhausted ALL THE TIME. I would sleep all weekend. I would not only go to bed exhausted, but I would also wake up exhausted. I should have realised. It is so obvious now.
  2. Detachment.
    This is a feeling of disconnect, not only from the work you are doing but also detachment from your colleagues and other people around you. I remember I lost my ‘mojo’, my passion for wanting to do the work I loved. I also lacked all enjoyment of life outside of work. I wasn’t as interested in my colleagues and working collaboratively in a team.
  3. The feeling of being inadequate.
    I remember doubting the quality of my work. One strong memory I have is when I attended management meetings. I would leave the meetings feeling hopeless, that the work I was producing was of low quality, even though I had the highest achieving team.

We often work in an environment of pressure and cannot see a way out. This can lead to us lacking the energy to support others who are feeling overwhelmed and burnt out. Therefore, we do not have the ability to spot the signs of burnout.


Next steps

I encourage your law practice to promote the prevention of burnout, helping your employees feel energetic, empowered, and motivated to want to come to work every day and achieve. If you don’t know where to start, email me on [email protected] for our latest Framework to Prevent Burnout for Your Employees.

If you want to take it one step further and find out more about how you can strategise emotional fitness and positive mental health in a practical way, every day, book in Calendly Strategy Call:


FICPI’s view and involvement 

  • FICPI is the only organisation exclusively for independent IP attorneys. The organisation uniquely combines education and advocacy on topics around patents and trade marks, with a focus on developing the professional excellence of its individual members. FICPI brings independent IP attorneys around the world together to connect, share knowledge and grow. 
  • Events such as FICPI’s 2022 World Congress offer the opportunity to attend plenaries, workshops and breakouts, and to meet and further discussions in congenial surroundings.

Clare Davis is a keynote speaker in Plenary 1 on 'Managing mental health issues in an IP firm in 2022 and beyond' at the FICPI 2022 World Congress.

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