Practicing law is usually more than a full time job. Legal research, writing, court appearances, client visits, and extensive driving lead to fatigue and stress. Computer use, phone work, and heavy case files increase your ergonomic injury risks. Interfacing with clients and the public exposes you to workplace violence. Acknowledge the risks and plan strategies to prevent injuries.
Long office hours can lead to ergonomic injuries; consider an ergonomic evaluation or use online tools to assess your workstation. Maintain good posture by keeping your monitor and keyboard directly in front of you. Use adjustable office furniture for a custom fit at your proper work height. Use a laptop docking station. Frequent or lengthy phone calls require a headset; avoid cradling the phone between your neck and shoulder.
Forceful and repetitive movements can injure you, so avoid banging on your keyboard keys—type smoothly and with even pressure. Drape your hand over your mouse, don’t grip it. Learn keyboard shortcuts to reduce typing and mousing. Take frequent mini-breaks throughout the work session; at least 30 seconds every 30 minutes. Rotate your tasks throughout the day to avoid fatigue. Indirect, fluorescent lighting reduces glare and eye strain.
Lift heavy case files and documents using proper lifting techniques. Keep your head facing forward and lift with your legs, not your back. Hold loads close to your body. Break awkward, heavy files into smaller folders. Store often-used files on shelves at waist level to avoid reaching and bending. When you grab files from a shelf, don’t use a one-handed “pinch” grip. Use two hands to grab the spine (one at the top and one at the bottom). A wheeled, long-handled briefcase can carry office supplies, laptop, and working documents. Use a cart for heavy loads.
Short deadlines and a fast pace can cause excessive, prolonged stress along with physical symptoms like digestive problems, headaches, and high blood pressure. Anxiety, irritability, insomnia, and depression are signs of too much stress. Seek medical attention for your symptoms. Use relaxation techniques and deep breathing to reduce stress. Avoid over scheduling and ask for help. Don’t try to be perfect and don’t expect perfection in others. Get enough sleep, exercise, and maintain your overall health.
Busy, stressed people do too many tasks while they drive. Eating, telephoning, texting, reading, and grooming take your attention off the road. Transportation authorities estimate that distracted drivers cause one-fourth to one-half of vehicle accidents. While driving, keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes and mind on the road. If you must use the phone in the car, use a hands-free model and keep the calls short.
Interfacing with the public and clients requires workplace security and personal safety. Control access to the inner office and escort visitors. Consider safety features like alarms and barriers at reception counters. Keep emergency contact numbers by every phone and programmed into cell phones.
Establish procedures for home, office, court, and detention facility visits with clients. Leave an itinerary with staff when you leave the office. Get training on calming an agitated client. Know when and how to use self-defense. Flag case files of clients with a non-compliant or violent history. Prohibit weapons and under-the-influence clients in your office.