An ABA study reported that 12.5 percent of U.S. attorneys self-reported ADHD, which is anywhere from 8 to 2 percent higher than the general adult population, depending on which study you review. Lawyers with ADHD may struggle to meet deadlines, prioritize work, and avoid distractions, among other issues. I am not a doctor, nor do I have ADHD, but I have been doing a lot of reading on it to help my coaching clients. In this post, I’m sharing some tips I’ve adapted from general ADHD advice for lawyers with ADHD.
1. Keep all your “to dos” in one master list. Writing it out on paper is often better than an app you don’t “see” all the time.
2. Every night before you leave work, make a to do list for the next day and highlight two things you must get done. Look at your calendar and block out time to get each task done.
3. Ask for deadlines. If your supervisor tells you something is due “in a few days,” give yourself a deadline to add a level of accountability. “I’ll get this to you by Friday.” Just make sure you give yourself enough time to get it done.
4. Break projects into small steps so they seem less overwhelming. Then set interim deadlines for those smaller tasks and put them in your calendar. Build in time cushions where you can in case you get off track or fall behind.
5. Put all deadlines in your calendar. Include reminders before they begin so you have time to wrap up your current project and/or prepare for your next one. If you are often late to meetings, set up reminders for 10 minutes and five minutes before you need to leave.
6. Use timers to avoid falling down a research rabbit hole. Set a timer for 30-60 minutes while you research and then stop and assess. Are you still researching the correct topic or did you veer off course? Have you found what you need or should you keep going? Repeat for 30-60 minute blocks until you are done.
7. Use timers to motivate yourself. Have to write a memo? Set a timer for 15 minutes and just start writing. It can be terrible but just get something down on paper. Then you can edit that into something useable.
8. If you get stuck on an assignment, reach out to your supervisor. Let them know what you have done so far and ask for their advice on how to proceed.
9. Be kind to yourself. Your brain just processes a bit differently. If you’re having a rough day or feeling bad about procrastinating or not staying on task, just vocalize that to yourself. “I’m having a tough time focusing today. It happens. It’s not the end of the world. I’m going to take a 15 minute break and then work on X task.” Sounds a little hokey but sometimes acknowledging the issue and talking yourself through a solution helps turn the corner.
Here are some additional resources for lawyers with ADHD:
First, you can reach out to me. Sign up for my coaching program. If you prefer to work at your own pace, enroll in Survive & Thrive, my online course for junior lawyers (free preview at the link) or Managing As a Midlevel, my course for law firm associates in their third through fifth years of practice.
Second, https://thejdhd.com is a website created by a lawyer with ADHD to help other lawyers with ADHD.
Third, https://www.additudemag.com includes a number of tips and strategies for adults with ADHD.