ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

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ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2020 11:04 am

Realizing from another thread that there are more of us than I would have guessed. Since a career requiring you to be careful, thorough, self-motivated, and able to slog through endless hours of detail-oriented work with little to no recognition is a pretty comically bad fit for a lot of people with ADHD, it seemed like it might be helpful to trade any tips as to how to make it less painful.

I’ll start:
- I have a lot of issues with being paralyzed when I have a task I’m dreading, or I feel like I’m super behind and will never catch up, or when I have something scheduled later in the day that will require me to stop what I’m working on (no idea why this last one is an issue). If it feels completely impossible to do anything, I’ll sometimes make a list of 5 or 6 projects I need to work on that day and then work on them in 15 minute cycles. Getting to switch to the next task on the list every 15 minutes almost feels like taking a break, and although switching every 15 minutes is definitely not the most productive way to move a project forward, it’s better than my usual alternative of reading Twitter and getting increasingly anxious about how behind I am.

- Since I’m inevitably behind on things (see above), I’ve had to get a lot better at “circling back” emails. My instinct is always to profusely apologize that it took me two weeks to do a project that was only 5 hours of actual work, but I have found that it just makes things worse to do that unless I have a good excuse. Instead, I try to find a way to make the delay seem reasonable (e.g., “I know we’re still waiting on client to send [x], but in the meantime I wanted to go ahead and send [thing you assigned me two weeks ago that is tangentially related to X] in case it’s easier to go ahead and review now,” or “I know we’ve been prioritizing [other project] but now that it’s slowed down a bit, I wanted to circle back to [thing from two weeks ago]”). I’m sure sometimes this approach just pisses people off, but a lot of times the partner has completely forgotten that they assigned something to me and doesn’t actually care about it, so being super apologetic ends up sending the message that they *should* be mad about something that they don’t even care about. The key is figuring out whether the project actually was urgent and important, in which case I just apologize and own it so I don’t look like I’m too clueless to even know what is or isn’t a high priority.

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2020 1:38 pm

This is a tough one for me, because I am definitely not great at managing my ADHD as a law student, but I tend to be better about it when I'm in a work environment. This is going to be a longer post and more about just living with ADHD as a law student than tips/tricks on how I manage, but it's hard to talk about these things with my partner who is an extremely well-regimented and disciplined worker and has a hard time understanding my attention/procrastination struggles.

I want to start off by talking about how ridiculous the parameters for ADHD diagnoses are. Through high school, I was a pretty high achiever, but not an ultra-high achiever. My HS doesn't release rankings outside of valedictorian and salutatorian, but I can say with confidence I was somewhere in the top 5%-10% of my class. Because I was always doing well in school, all the tell-tale ADHD signs kind of went unnoticed. I was a bit of a class clown, I would always ask and answer questions without raising my hand, homework that should've taken a half hour to an hour would take me all night, I left essays to the last second, never studied until the night before the test, etc. I would spend hours and hours and hours "working," where I was sitting at my desk attempting to get work down but mostly twiddling my thumbs. This fooled my parents into thinking I was a hard worker. But there's this stigma around ADHD that those who have it are either dumb or lazy or whatever, and I didn't fit that bill, so nobody even thought to have me see someone.

When I got to college, all my worst habits really started to come out and it really had me super stressed, although I was still getting decent grades (I think I had a 3.6ish by the end of my sophomore year?). After a semester of countless nights at the library until 2am or later in my junior year, where I would spend most of the time mindlessly looking at social media despite my deep, deep desire to get work done, I decided it was time to see someone, as I probably had ADHD. My psychiatrist agreed, put me on Adderall.

Immediately 4.0'd the next semester. Made me wonder what could've been.

Adderall is a tricky drug, though. The more you use it, the more of a tolerance you have, and so you need to take more to get the same effect. While I wasn't using it every day, there were nights I had a paper due that I was taking 30-40mg in a night. I always spaced it out by 3-4 hours like my doctor told me but still, sheesh. My sleep schedule was super messed up too, could never sleep if I took even 10mg anytime after around 3:00pm. So my senior year I tried using it less, and my grades suffered, but that was more because of senioritis than anything else.

Law school has been really hard for me. There's just so much reading, and that gets me to disengage more than anything. That's why I like transactional work better; reading contracts and stuff is more actionable and engaging than reading old cases that may or may not have relevant information to a case your litigating. It's super discouraging for me when I struggle to read through a case and then I realize I've just wasted an hour struggling through something that ends up being useless.

I used Adderall a lot more during 1L, but I've been using it less and my grades have gone up. I find when I'm doing work that causes me to disengage, like reading casebooks, instead of helping me focus, it just makes any distractions I do fall into all the more enthralling. So now I only take it during exams and maybe if I'm writing a paper. I haven't gotten a new prescription in like a year and half (maybe 2 years?), that's how long it's lasted me. The biggest thing for me has been to use a website blocker, lol. Keeps me off of Twitter and YouTube when I'm supposed to be working. I keep my gaming stuff in my office, which is a huge mistake, do not recommend. Sometimes I put my Switch in the other room to stop me from using it.

The best thing for me is when my partner is in the room with me, we share an office. She's super type-A, so having her there kind of embarrasses me into being more efficient. It's kind of like when I'm in an actual work environment; I really thrive when I have someone or something (like a strict deadline) else keeping me accountable for what I'm doing.

Sorry that this was long and meandering, I think about this stuff a lot. I guess any advice I would have is that if you have ADHD and use medication, experiment around with doses and the contexts in which you use it; only use it when you feel you must. Use a website blocker if that's an issue for you, as it is for me. And lastly, if possible, use another human being to hold you accountable in some fashion.

Maybe find a hobby that lets you get some energy. I used to play hockey, I feel like getting back into that would help me. I also play bass, which I keep near my desk, which can be distracting when I'm trying to learn a new song or something but I also feel like I'm doing something constructive.

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2020 3:22 pm

As someone diagnosed with ADHD, I struggle severely with this, and I could've written the situations and problems described ITT word for word. I've made it a while in biglaw (~6 years) but ADHD and the resultant symptoms have hurt my standing with partners in the past for sure. I think biglaw is a uniquely bad fit for those with ADHD because of the hours system - in a normal job, solving a problem quickly might lead to down time or a slow day (a reward in itself), but in biglaw, it doesn't solve anything. In fact, it's worse, because then you just have to find more things to fill the time. If you are easily distracted and billing ethically, it might take 11 or 12 hours to bill 8 in a day, and you might pull an all nighter but only have 13 hours to show for it. I agree with the above post that medication can help, but all too often it will work for a few weeks and then you get used to it and it is no longer beneficial at all, at least in my experience. It's also quite possible for someone to excel academically on smarts and cramming throughout college and law school only to be thrust into the exact opposite work environment where that type of efficiency (if you can call it that) is the opposite of ideal, so it's possible those who weren't diagnosed earlier in life are only running into these issues now.

My advice, just based on my own experience, starts at the beginning. I think ADHD attorneys would generally fare better in transactional practices where there are many quick tasks (constant deadline pressure) as opposed to litigation where, especially after the first couple of years, you will be trusted with long-term deadlines that will be very difficult to self-manage (no reward) and that can easily slip through the cracks (most things in lit are not mission critical, so it's easy to let things slide). If you're already in lit, the strategies described in OP may help, but otherwise you just need to fill you plate up with enough work that you're constantly getting that external motivation to finish. The problem is that's a dangerous game because deadlines may slip and damage your reputation.

Other random tips I found helpful:

Closing door to office (pre-Covid) and preventing outside stimulus to the extent possible

Keeping a clock visible at all times as a reminder of where I am in the day, to prevent those "where did the last 2 hours go" sessions

Absolute minimization of caffeine, both because caffeine itself causes issues and because it gets very easy to use a trip to the coffee room as a procrastination crutch

Web blockers to a certain extent, although it's always easy to find something unblocked to waste time on

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2020 3:38 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Aug 12, 2020 3:22 pm
As someone diagnosed with ADHD, I struggle severely with this, and I could've written the situations and problems described ITT word for word. I've made it a while in biglaw (~6 years) but ADHD and the resultant symptoms have hurt my standing with partners in the past for sure. I think biglaw is a uniquely bad fit for those with ADHD because of the hours system - in a normal job, solving a problem quickly might lead to down time or a slow day (a reward in itself), but in biglaw, it doesn't solve anything. In fact, it's worse, because then you just have to find more things to fill the time. If you are easily distracted and billing ethically, it might take 11 or 12 hours to bill 8 in a day, and you might pull an all nighter but only have 13 hours to show for it. I agree with the above post that medication can help, but all too often it will work for a few weeks and then you get used to it and it is no longer beneficial at all, at least in my experience. It's also quite possible for someone to excel academically on smarts and cramming throughout college and law school only to be thrust into the exact opposite work environment where that type of efficiency (if you can call it that) is the opposite of ideal, so it's possible those who weren't diagnosed earlier in life are only running into these issues now.

My advice, just based on my own experience, starts at the beginning. I think ADHD attorneys would generally fare better in transactional practices where there are many quick tasks (constant deadline pressure) as opposed to litigation where, especially after the first couple of years, you will be trusted with long-term deadlines that will be very difficult to self-manage (no reward) and that can easily slip through the cracks (most things in lit are not mission critical, so it's easy to let things slide). If you're already in lit, the strategies described in OP may help, but otherwise you just need to fill you plate up with enough work that you're constantly getting that external motivation to finish. The problem is that's a dangerous game because deadlines may slip and damage your reputation.

Other random tips I found helpful:

Closing door to office (pre-Covid) and preventing outside stimulus to the extent possible

Keeping a clock visible at all times as a reminder of where I am in the day, to prevent those "where did the last 2 hours go" sessions

Absolute minimization of caffeine, both because caffeine itself causes issues and because it gets very easy to use a trip to the coffee room as a procrastination crutch

Web blockers to a certain extent, although it's always easy to find something unblocked to waste time on
I'm the above poster. This is what scares me the most about working for a firm. I currently have an in-house gig lined up for post-grad but am still testing the firm waters to see what's out there. Absolutely terrified of the prospect of actually having to bill time like that.

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2020 5:19 pm

OP here - nice (and sad) to hear that you guys have all of the same problems that I do. It's hard to find people to talk to about this stuff - most non-lawyers with ADHD don't really get the law firm/in-house environment, and most lawyers don't seem to get ADHD.

To the first reply, I have a similar situation with my partner - it's part of what made me realize that maybe there was something wrong with me besides just being lazy. I try to explain to him things like "when I say I got nothing done today, I mean I LITERALLY got nothing done, not that I didn't get through everything I was hoping to do." He tries to be nice about it but clearly doesn't understand (tbf, neither do I).

Re: medication, I think I might be lucky with this in some ways - I wasn't diagnosed until I had been working for a while, so I've always had my work schedule to time my medication around. I find taking it at the same time every day helps a TON - it kind of feels like my brain gets into the habit of being a functional adult for a certain window of time every day. I used to try to "save it" until right before I was about to start working, but now I take extended release right after I get up and it really helps me get a better start to the day. Night work once my meds have worn off is brutal, though, and I also have to be extremely strict with myself during the day about not giving into the urge to do non-work things that I already find engaging without medication, because I'll end up doing them for hours.

In terms of the medication not working anymore, I definitely have days where it feels like it's not helping at all, but overall I do tend to buy into the studies that suggest that "tolerance" is often either that you never reached your correct dose in the first place or that you're going through a uniquely stressful period (so even though you're on the right dose, there's only so much it can do).

I do think work is better than law school overall since you can't cram billable hours at the last minute like you can for a test, so there is that push to do stuff on an ongoing basis. Everything else about work is pretty awful, though. So demoralizing to feel like I've been doing unpleasant stuff all day and that I only took a few breaks and then look at my time entries and I've somehow billed like 3.75 hours by 6 PM.

Also 100% agree with the reply about how challenging it is that there's no reward for efficiency in biglaw. I think I'm similar to whoever wrote that reply in that I've managed to get by and I generally get relatively good feedback and reviews, but there are also times that I know I look like an irresponsible idiot, and I constantly feel like I have to put in double the mental effort of a "normal" person just to barely scrape by and avoid people noticing how often I'm late on things, or how I randomly only billed 5 hours two days in a row last week despite having work to do, or how many times I make stupid sloppy mistakes, etc. The level of perfectionism in biglaw is really rough - even when I look like a functional person on the outside, on the inside I'm always worrying about stuff I'm late on, worrying about a dumb mistake I made, trying to find something important that I know I saved in a random Word document once but I'm not sure where, wondering how bad I'm going to look if I have to ask someone to explain part of an assignment again because I spaced out for half of the meeting, etc.

I have often wished that I had done transactional instead of lit, but in some ways I think it would be worse - although I work much better under a lot of time pressure, I'm not great at handling that kind of pressure over an extended period of time. I loathe that feeling that I HAVE to do a particular project and have no ability to do a little of Project A and then a little of Project B, or put Project A off until tomorrow when I'm less tired, etc. I think I would have burned out even sooner if I was constantly having to force myself to do boring, detail-intensive tasks on super short timelines.

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2020 8:20 pm

Very comforting to hear others are dealing with this too. I am not diagnosed, but family , friends, spouse, have all expressed serious concerns that I may have ADHD. I’ve experienced all of the above - like one of anons, could have written these posts word for word.

Don’t have any helpful tips to add, but good to hear that others are dealing with the same issue.

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2020 8:36 pm

I am feeling the same and have always struggled with this, but law school and biglaw really took it to another level. I rely on bingeing heavy amounts of caffeine to power through work...which has been really bad for my long term sleeping habits during WFH/COVID. Thank you for your posts all. I'm glad I'm not alone.

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2020 8:36 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Aug 12, 2020 8:20 pm
Very comforting to hear others are dealing with this too. I am not diagnosed, but family , friends, spouse, have all expressed serious concerns that I may have ADHD. I’ve experienced all of the above - like one of anons, could have written these posts word for word.

Don’t have any helpful tips to add, but good to hear that others are dealing with the same issue.
I'm one of the anons above. Getting diagnosed and getting medication can be super helpful, but also just putting a name on it really helps with the guilt and shame of it all. I still feel guilty and ashamed sometimes when I can't get work done, but knowing that it's a diagnosable disorder and not some character flaw really helps with that.

Also, its extremely comforting reading the responses ITT. It's really interesting to see how closely all our experiences relate to one another.

Lawyers with ADHD. There are dozens of us! Dozens!

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2020 9:10 pm

I have severe ADHD and am starting at a firm this fall. Law school was rough, but medication helped a lot, although I built up a tolerance to it and it didn't work as well by the end of the year. Now I take breaks from medication whenever I can--during the holidays, a day off, etc. to try to avoid that.

I chose transactional over litigation in large part because long projects with no strict deadline (or at least one that is not far off) are brutal for me. Bar study is absolutely brutal due to the lack of structure/true "deadlines." I am miserable and cannot wait to get this damn test over with.

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2020 9:59 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Aug 12, 2020 9:10 pm
I have severe ADHD and am starting at a firm this fall. Law school was rough, but medication helped a lot, although I built up a tolerance to it and it didn't work as well by the end of the year. Now I take breaks from medication whenever I can--during the holidays, a day off, etc. to try to avoid that.

I chose transactional over litigation in large part because long projects with no strict deadline (or at least one that is not far off) are brutal for me. Bar study is absolutely brutal due to the lack of structure/true "deadlines." I am miserable and cannot wait to get this damn test over with.
(OP again) FWIW, if you’re doing a prep program with videos, I basically gave up on those at some point and just did practice questions and a million flashcards. I was getting nothing out of the videos which was just stressing me out more than not watching them. I felt like I failed when I was taking it but it ended up being totally fine.

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2020 10:10 pm

Wow, I'm a rising 3L (with no history of adhd diagnosis, etc) and am kinda shocked how strongly I relate to many of these situations. I'd like to thank everyone for sharing, definitely something for me to think about before bar prep/biglaw next year.

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Aug 13, 2020 11:40 am

I will flesh out the post later but a bit occupied now.

I was diagnosed with and treated for ADHD in law school. I was diagnosed with a previously unknown reading disability as well.

I am still seeing a therapist and taking Adderal.

I was always above average, no matter where I went, ivy/T14/youth camps for talented kids/graduate level math classes. I had bursts where I finished top 10%, even top of class, when I just focused for some weird reason. It didn't matter how hard the class was supposed to be. I just ended up being above average and I literally made calculations in my head on whether I could afford to just skip on an assignment, despite knowing very clearly I should just do them. To be frank, I haven't found a class to be challenging to finish in the top 1/3 or top 1/10 (if I tried) in. It's not I didn't want to finish top 10% of class consistently, it's more just like I just kind of lose interest after making it for a semester. This happened with my 1L year. Knowing how high stakes 1L was, I basically buckled down and did kind of work a bit first semester... 1 A- put me out of 4.0. All I did was go to class, listen, and made sure I had a day to retype someone else's outline before exams. I stopped reading the case book like a week in. That wasn't happening. Then I just lost interest. It didn't help on strength of 1L I had 1L summers locked up... and found it even harder to care. By the end of second semester, I was already full time grinding poker in class via VPN.

I'm not trying to brag. I have been filled with guilt and a kind of impostor syndrome for years. Despite outward appearances, I always felt like an underachiever and a poser. I can't even count the number of times I lied about how much I studied (often, absolutely zero in reality). I even lied about my LSAT (I told classmates a lower number than what I got). I honestly just felt embarassed how much I was slacking off in law school and didn't want people to know. Even now, I feel like an impostor making as much as I do for putting in less than 1/4 of the work I know most of my coworkers are putting in.

One of the reasons I ended up out of biglaw is I knew I wouldn't be successful long due to the ADHD still not being under control. I handed papers in late in law school and, despite very strong desire to study, I'd end up staying all night playing computer games and basically spend 2 or 3 hours printing someone else's outline before exam started then just waltz in and out and get A/A-. This was the pattern during highschool and college years too. I was constantly crushing all nighters for assignments that I had plenty of time for.

To be honest, this has come to a head recently with WFH. Without being physically in the office, and just all kinds of emails taking forever, I have had tons of excuses about being late... and to my horror, I am using those excuses and I am rapidly approaching the point where I see the need for multiple all nighters to catch up.

And yet, I just wasted like 15 minutes to type this tome.

Probably scarier, a part of me is looking forward to the all nighters.

You guys basically just read what I am planning to talk to my therapist about this Saturday.

-ADHDImpostorAnon1
Last edited by Anonymous User on Fri Aug 21, 2020 8:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Aug 13, 2020 1:24 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Aug 13, 2020 11:40 am
I will flesh out the post later but a bit occupied now.

I was diagnosed with and treated for ADHD in law school. I was diagnosed with a previously unknown reading disability as well.

I am still seeing a therapist and taking Adderal.

I was always above average, no matter where I went, ivy/T14/youth camps for talented kids/graduate level math classes. I had bursts where I finished top 10%, even top of class, when I just focused for some weird reason. It didn't matter how hard the class was supposed to be. I just ended up being above average and I literally made calculations in my head on whether I could afford to just skip on an assignment, despite knowing very clearly I should just do them. To be frank, I haven't found a class to be challenging to finish in the top 1/3 or top 1/10 (if I tried) in. It's not I didn't want to finish top 10% of class consistently, it's more just like I just kind of lose interest after making it for a semester. This happened with my 1L year. Knowing how high stakes 1L was, I basically buckled down and did kind of work a bit first semester... 1 A- put me out of 4.0. All I did was go to class, listen, and made sure I had a day to retype someone else's outline before exams. I stopped reading the case book like a week in. That wasn't happening. Then I just lost interest. It didn't help on strength of 1L I had 1L summers locked up... and found it even harder to care. By the end of second semester, I was already full time grinding poker in class via VPN.

I'm not trying to brag. I have been filled with guilt and a kind of impostor syndrome for years. Despite outward appearances, I always felt like an underachiever and a poser. I can't even count the number of times I lied about how much I studied (often, absolutely zero in reality). I even lied about my LSAT (I told classmates a lower number than what I got). I honestly just felt embarassed how much I was slacking off in law school and didn't want people to know. Even now, I feel like an impostor making as much as I do for putting in less than 1/4 of the work I know most of my coworkers are putting in.

One of the reasons I ended up out of biglaw is I knew I wouldn't be successful long due to the ADHD still not being under control. I handed papers in late in law school and, despite very strong desire to study, I'd end up staying all night playing computer games and basically spend 2 or 3 hours printing someone else's outline before exam started then just waltz in and out and get A/A-. This was the pattern during highschool and college years too. I was constantly crushing all nighters for assignments that I had plenty of time for.

To be honest, this has come to a head recently with WFH. Without being physically in the office, and just all kinds of emails taking forever, I have had tons of excuses about being late... and to my horror, I am using those excuses and I am rapidly approaching the point where I see the need for multiple all nighters to catch up.

And yet, I just wasted like 15 minutes to type this tome.

Probably scarier, a part of me is looking forward to the all nighters.

You guys basically just read what I am planning to talk to my therapist about this Saturday.
I haven't been able to succeed in law school at your level with my procrastination but this reminds of the time I was a 1L and didn't go to property for a month and did all the readings/watched all the lectures for that month in a week, wrote an outline in the next couple of days, and got an A- on the exam, lol.

When I was in undergrad I was a philosophy major. Those fools would, instead of making the exam questions a surprise, at the end of the semester give us a list of 10 potential questions that will be on the exam. Of those 10 questions, 8 would be on the final. Of the 8 on the final, you had to choose 4 to answer. The numbers weren't always the same but you get the idea. Guess who never did the reading, regularly participated in discussion, and simply drafted answers to the potential questions during finals week and memorized my answers? This guy. I got As in every single one of my philosophy classes, save one I got a B in because the prof was a total nutty professor and didn't do a great job keeping the class linear so I had no clue how to answer anything.

The worst one was a time I had an exam that allowed us to have one side of one piece of paper as a cheat sheet. The prof, upon my asking, said that the notes could be types. So I typed out ~500 word responses to each of the questions in 6pt font and copied them verbatim on test day. In and out in about 40 minutes of a 3 hour exam. A.

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by nixy » Thu Aug 13, 2020 1:40 pm

There's nothing wrong with providing questions ahead of time like that, or letting people bring in notes to exams. You still had to learn the material, and I can guarantee not everyone actually got As under that system. It probably played to your strengths, but it doesn't mean you're an imposter; you earned your As. (Also, plenty of people without ADHD blow off law school classes, study outlines at the end of the semester, and do well.)

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Aug 13, 2020 1:47 pm

nixy wrote:
Thu Aug 13, 2020 1:40 pm
There's nothing wrong with providing questions ahead of time like that, or letting people bring in notes to exams. You still had to learn the material, and I can guarantee not everyone actually got As under that system. It probably played to your strengths, but it doesn't mean you're an imposter; you earned your As. (Also, plenty of people without ADHD blow off law school classes, study outlines at the end of the semester, and do well.)
No, nothing wrong with it. But it definitely played into my procrastination habits is all I was saying.

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by nixy » Thu Aug 13, 2020 1:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Aug 13, 2020 1:47 pm
nixy wrote:
Thu Aug 13, 2020 1:40 pm
There's nothing wrong with providing questions ahead of time like that, or letting people bring in notes to exams. You still had to learn the material, and I can guarantee not everyone actually got As under that system. It probably played to your strengths, but it doesn't mean you're an imposter; you earned your As. (Also, plenty of people without ADHD blow off law school classes, study outlines at the end of the semester, and do well.)
No, nothing wrong with it. But it definitely played into my procrastination habits is all I was saying.
Oh, got it. That's fair. It is really tough to adjust to new work habits when procrastination has always worked, even if miserably sometimes. (I don't mean to butt in, I struggle with some of these issues although I don't think I have ADHD so am interested in the solutions people have come up with.)

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Aug 13, 2020 3:12 pm

nixy wrote:
Thu Aug 13, 2020 1:55 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Aug 13, 2020 1:47 pm
nixy wrote:
Thu Aug 13, 2020 1:40 pm
There's nothing wrong with providing questions ahead of time like that, or letting people bring in notes to exams. You still had to learn the material, and I can guarantee not everyone actually got As under that system. It probably played to your strengths, but it doesn't mean you're an imposter; you earned your As. (Also, plenty of people without ADHD blow off law school classes, study outlines at the end of the semester, and do well.)
No, nothing wrong with it. But it definitely played into my procrastination habits is all I was saying.
Oh, got it. That's fair. It is really tough to adjust to new work habits when procrastination has always worked, even if miserably sometimes. (I don't mean to butt in, I struggle with some of these issues although I don't think I have ADHD so am interested in the solutions people have come up with.)
No problem, Nixy.

I think one of the issues with ADHD struggles is that everyone talks as if they struggle with. "Oh my god, I got NOTHING done yesterday," or "Wow I've been putting the off for SO long!" and things of that nature. This is especially true for people who are high achievers who either (1) hold themselves to unreasonable high standards, (2) don't want to reveal how much work they're actually doing because they don't want people thinking they're stupid for taking so long on things,(3) want to make it seem like they succeed without trying because they're just that smart, or, I think most commonly (4) everyone craves the shared experience of misery. This can make it really difficult for someone like me, who was a relatively high achiever despite distraction and procrastination issues, to recognize what was doing on.

I think the difference is that people with ADHD can sit down and try to get work done and still not get it done, as opposed to neurotypical (a term I'm only just now becoming aware of) people who might sometimes just shuck things out of anxiety or laziness or just prioritizing other things. It really took me pushing myself to the brink of insanity, I'm talking sitting in the library for 8-10 hours straight every day for a week and getting maybe 2-4 hours of work done each day, before I decided to see a psychiatrist.

That was a bit of a ramble, unsurprisingly common ITT. I guess my point is that I don't know how well someone with ADHD's procrastination tips and tricks translate to people without ADHD. I'd suggest the basic stuff: set a schedule, take distracting things out of your work area, etc. None of that kind of stuff works for me, but it seems to work for most people.

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Aug 13, 2020 4:19 pm

(OP) Not quoting because I hate how long the posts get with multiple quotes, but the poster above took the words out of my mouth with respect to the difference between ADHD and procrastinating. I once saw someone describe the difference as boiling down to whether you’re *choosing* to procrastinate vs just being powerless to stop yourself even when it is actively interfering with your mental state. I definitely think there’s overlap - there are certainly times when it feels *possible* to get work done but I just actively choose not to, so I don’t want to suggest that ADHD people are just saints who would love to do all of the things if only their brains would allow them to, but the difference between times when I *do* resolve to Get Things Done vs when my partner does the same thing is night and day (to summarize, he Gets Things Done, but I’m still held captive by the Internet, or by trying a new to-do list app that’s going to fix all of my problems, or cleaning out a random drawer, etc. The mental “pain” of doing a tedious or overwhelming task trumps everything else.)

Along with seeing how my partner worked, it was actually biglaw that really helped me realize that something was off - in school I was always like “yeah I’m less motivated than these other people but it’s because I know I can just cram the night before and be fine, and they’re just too uptight to do it that way so they study all semester long.” However, once I was in a situation where I had to bill my time (no cramming allowed), I couldn’t figure out why even people that seemed to be much lazier/afraid of negative feedback than I was were still able to force themselves to do way more work than I was.

Anyway, I don’t have any great productivity tips, unfortunately - although I love reading about them, none of the normal ones work very well for me because I can’t get myself to stick to a system. I do think both ADHD and neurotypical people can generally benefit from breaking tasks down into very small pieces (even to the point of absurdity if necessary). Similarly, if I really can’t stand the idea of working, I’ll sometimes do literally one minute of work and then take a break. If I can get through that, I’ll do 2 minutes the next round and so on until I get to a time window that my brain finds daunting, at which point I stop or go back down a minute. I have to be able to stick to the time interval I’ve committed to because the second I renege on that kind of “agreement” with myself it’s all over.

Something else I find somewhat motivating is having a big excel chart tracking my hours to date, hours in a particular week, average hours per week, annualized hours if I continue my current trend, etc. When I’m feeling unmotivated, I make a point of updating my numbers throughout the day/week so that I get that little “reward” of seeing that I’m staying on track for my yearly hours goal (or, more likely, I’m slowly digging myself out of my hours deficit).

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Aug 13, 2020 4:27 pm

The impostor syndrome arises from:
1. the feeling that I lack the core skills (staying on task, ability to manage a long term project) to succeed
2. lying about how much work I did
3. and frankly, a lot of screwups that, in the context of new associates aren't unexpected, but I would NOT have made if not for ADHD
4. just frankly having completely different work tempos than everyone around me. I have absolutely EXCELLED during crunch deal times (in both banking and biglaw settings). The short bursts of hyper activity gets my adrenaline going and what crushes other people is the high-octane gas that I seem to need. The worst assignments for me were stuff like discovery requests and 40 page memos that are routine and easy for everyone else but I simply can't get myself to crank words out.
5. 1-4 just culminates in this very strong sense that I am wasting a spot someone else really wanted
6. I've made trouble for seniors and coworkers due to ADHD. Missed deadlines and sloppy work, even though on average I was still above average.

For what it is worth, I pulled all the stops and ended up back in a niche are of banking (middle-marketish, but not quite) and I see quite a few people like me. People who thrive on short deadlines and bursts of activity. I've done extremely well. I went from a mediocre associate who was universally recognized as very smart (a fellow summer at a V10 I summered at said she was intimidated by how smart I came across) but could be a bit slow and sloppy to a super star in a banking setting.

I rarely express this to my peers and the only person I've admitted this to is my wife (who frankly still doesn't seem to accept ADHD as a disability and frankly says stuff my mom says, think stuff like "You could have gone to <insert Ivy/Stanford>).

I am just rambling now but here is something that I hope will help other ADHD sufferers. I used to think I could just do anything I wanted to if I put my mind to it. It's what everyone around me has told me for my entire life up until I was diagnosed with ADHD in law school. I have come to accept this just isn't the case. My brain functions more like an Formula One engine that needs to rev at extremely high rates and very high temperatures. It can go faster than any road legal car on the planet but if you ask it to drive on i-95 at 65mph at a sustainable speed/fuel burn rate, it will just stall. There aren't a lot of professions that would ask me to rev at such high speeds AND very rarely ask me to drive at low rev/speeds.

I am not even sure what my point is anymore. I just wanted to share some of my thoughts about ADHD that I've not shared with anyone but my wife, therapist, psychologist, and a select few very close friends who I know also have ADHD.

-ADHDImpostorAnon1
Last edited by Anonymous User on Fri Aug 21, 2020 8:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Aug 13, 2020 5:58 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Aug 13, 2020 4:27 pm
The impostor syndrome arises from:
1. the feeling that I lack the core skills (staying on task, ability to manage a long term project) to succeed
2. lying about how much work I did
3. and frankly, a lot of screwups that, in the context of new associates aren't unexpected, but I would NOT have made if not for ADHD
4. just frankly having completely different work tempos than everyone around me. I have absolutely EXCELLED during crunch deal times (in both banking and biglaw settings). The short bursts of hyper activity gets my adrenaline going and what crushes other people is the high-octane gas that I seem to need. The worst assignments for me were stuff like discovery requests and 40 page memos that are routine and easy for everyone else but I simply can't get myself to crank words out.
5. 1-4 just culminates in this very strong sense that I am wasting a spot someone else really wanted
6. I've made trouble for seniors and coworkers due to ADHD. Missed deadlines and sloppy work, even though on average I was still above average.

For what it is worth, I pulled all the stops and ended up back in a niche are of banking (middle-marketish, but not quite) and I see quite a few people like me. People who thrive on short deadlines and bursts of activity. I've done extremely well. I went from a mediocre associate who was universally recognized as very smart (a fellow summer at a V10 I summered at said she was intimidated by how smart I came across) but could be a bit slow and sloppy to a super star in a banking setting.

I rarely express this to my peers and the only person I've admitted this to is my wife (who frankly still doesn't seem to accept ADHD as a disability and frankly says stuff my mom says, think stuff like "You could have gone to <insert Ivy/Stanford>).

I am just rambling now but here is something that I hope will help other ADHD sufferers. I used to think I could just do anything I wanted to if I put my mind to it. It's what everyone around me has told me for my entire life up until I was diagnosed with ADHD in law school. I have come to accept this just isn't the case. My brain functions more like an Formula One engine that needs to rev at extremely high rates and very high temperatures. It can go faster than any road legal car on the planet but if you ask it to drive on i-95 at 65mph at a sustainable speed/fuel burn rate, it will just stall. There aren't a lot of professions that would ask me to rev at such high speeds AND very rarely ask me to drive at low rev/speeds.

I am not even sure what my point is anymore. I just wanted to share some of my thoughts about ADHD that I've not shared with anyone but my wife, therapist, psychologist, and a select few very close friends who I know also have ADHD.
Based on everything you just said, I could easily see myself playing out your exact career. Wow, it's kind of crazy to me how much overlap everyone ITT seems to have (I'm not OP but have posted 3-4 of the posts above so far)

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by mwells_56 » Fri Aug 14, 2020 9:31 am

Going off anon because nothing identifying in this post. But this thread, which I've been participating in, prompted me to do some googling on high functioning professionals with ADHD. Thought y'all would enjoy this article. https://www.dixonlifecoaching.com/post/ ... -with-adhd

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Aug 14, 2020 11:07 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Aug 13, 2020 4:27 pm
The impostor syndrome arises from:
1. the feeling that I lack the core skills (staying on task, ability to manage a long term project) to succeed
2. lying about how much work I did
3. and frankly, a lot of screwups that, in the context of new associates aren't unexpected, but I would NOT have made if not for ADHD
4. just frankly having completely different work tempos than everyone around me. I have absolutely EXCELLED during crunch deal times (in both banking and biglaw settings). The short bursts of hyper activity gets my adrenaline going and what crushes other people is the high-octane gas that I seem to need. The worst assignments for me were stuff like discovery requests and 40 page memos that are routine and easy for everyone else but I simply can't get myself to crank words out.
5. 1-4 just culminates in this very strong sense that I am wasting a spot someone else really wanted
6. I've made trouble for seniors and coworkers due to ADHD. Missed deadlines and sloppy work, even though on average I was still above average.

For what it is worth, I pulled all the stops and ended up back in a niche are of banking (middle-marketish, but not quite) and I see quite a few people like me. People who thrive on short deadlines and bursts of activity. I've done extremely well. I went from a mediocre associate who was universally recognized as very smart (a fellow summer at a V10 I summered at said she was intimidated by how smart I came across) but could be a bit slow and sloppy to a super star in a banking setting.

I rarely express this to my peers and the only person I've admitted this to is my wife (who frankly still doesn't seem to accept ADHD as a disability and frankly says stuff my mom says, think stuff like "You could have gone to <insert Ivy/Stanford>).

I am just rambling now but here is something that I hope will help other ADHD sufferers. I used to think I could just do anything I wanted to if I put my mind to it. It's what everyone around me has told me for my entire life up until I was diagnosed with ADHD in law school. I have come to accept this just isn't the case. My brain functions more like an Formula One engine that needs to rev at extremely high rates and very high temperatures. It can go faster than any road legal car on the planet but if you ask it to drive on i-95 at 65mph at a sustainable speed/fuel burn rate, it will just stall. There aren't a lot of professions that would ask me to rev at such high speeds AND very rarely ask me to drive at low rev/speeds.

I am not even sure what my point is anymore. I just wanted to share some of my thoughts about ADHD that I've not shared with anyone but my wife, therapist, psychologist, and a select few very close friends who I know also have ADHD.
I was in banking and had to quit that practice because I literally couldn't sit around and read the credit agreement. I thrived as a junior but once I became a go-to for drafting credit agreements it completely killed me. Even with meds I could barely get through them. M&A is easier for me from that perspective but there are so many balls to juggle it gets overwhelming. I stopped taking my meds when I was a 2L because I was getting heart palpitations from the stress, meds, caffeine, lack of sleep and decided that if I need adderall to be good at my job, then I should just get another job. Kind of wish I hadn't at this point since I think I could be good on them now that I'm at a less stressful firm.

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Aug 14, 2020 6:39 pm

I am in big law (transactional tax) and have ADHD. Reading this thread is comforting/encouraging because it makes me feel like I'm not totally alone. It's also a little worrisome though, because it doesn't seem like there are any magic tricks to help solve the situation I am currently and perennially in. I am constantly behind and take forever to do anything. If I go too fast, I make mistakes. If I go too slow, people begin to chase and get frustrated. I stay up all night and don't get much sleep, so the cycle is made worse the next day. I take medication (Vyvanse), but can feel its strongest effects wear off after 4 hours or so. After that, I feel worse and unless there's a lot of action going on, I'll feel "hollowed out" and unable to restart if I get sidetracked. I am, in fact, suffering quite a bit today after overpromising deadlines I couldn't possibly meet and being paralyzed in the face of a wall of work at 6pm on a Friday.

"If I just had one day to catch up, I could get my matters in order, caught up with billing, and this would never happen again!" - me, week after week after week, after week

Oh right - the point of this post wasn't to just air grievances!

I've found that some things that work include:

Mental -
1. forcing myself to not give a shit if people are incidentally annoyed at me (so long as it's not overboard) - especially people outside of the tax group

2. accepting that this job isn't forever and, since I'm not aiming for partner, I shouldn't sweat over making everyone happy forever

3. This may be especially relevant to tax, but keeping in mind that the golden rule is it's better to be right and slow rather than fast and wrong

4. recognizing that everyone in big law is acting to maximize their own self interest - whether it's impressing a client, partner, or trying to make sure their own weekend isn't ruined - this frees me a little when I (feel like I) fail to live up to someone's expectations

Actual Tips -
1. setting up a big OneNote scheme to easily save helpful language, documents, and templates, so I'm not constantly searching through old emails

2. learning how to become pretty efficient with microsoft word (e.g., learning how to search a document for obvious errors, creating multiple windows for the same document so I can search a doc without losing my place in the markup, using track change redlines to easily transplant language, using the highlighter function to block out areas of text when I'm done with it, so I don't keep looking back as I'm drafting or marking something up)

3. Try to alternate between substantive work and administrative work - For example, I'll work or complete an assignment, enter my hours for a prior day, work on another assignment, schedule a doctor's appointment, and so on

4. Honestly - Learn to lie and, plan out lies, about how time was wasted under the scourge of ADHD. obviously I am not going to say "Sorry this is late, I begged myself to stop scrolling through a Wikipedia page about the Persecution of Huguenots under Louis XV, but I physically couldn't do so until I reached the appropriate level of stress, desperation and self-hatred" - No, no, no...much better to say "I had to deal with a fire drill"

good luck!

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Aug 14, 2020 7:03 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Aug 14, 2020 6:39 pm

4. Honestly - Learn to lie and, plan out lies, about how time was wasted under the scourge of ADHD. obviously I am not going to say "Sorry this is late, I begged myself to stop scrolling through a Wikipedia page about the Persecution of Huguenots under Louis XV, but I physically couldn't do so until I reached the appropriate level of stress, desperation and self-hatred" - No, no, no...much better to say "I had to deal with a fire drill"

good luck!
(OP) Lol’d at this (and also wanted to cry at the accuracy). It’s actually crazy how similar everyone’s experiences are, and it’s super comforting to hear people talking about them in the biglaw context. Obviously no disrespect for other jobs (I would basically rather be doing anything else) but it’s hard to relate my situation in biglaw to an ADHD teacher talking about how they get behind grading papers or whatever - totally different experiences.

Re: your point about alternating real work and admin work, I do this on the weekends (and sometimes during the week if I WFH) with low-level cleaning around my apartment - not only does it make it easier to start work knowing I’ll get to take a break in a few minutes and walk around, it also helps me resist the temptation to conclude that I’ll be able to do All The Things if I just have a clean apartment to work in (cue multi-hour time-wasting but ultimately half-assed deep clean). As I’ve alluded to throughout the thread, alternating tasks helps me a lot in general...but not enough that I’m not also staring down a wall of work at 7 PM on a Friday night.

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Re: ADHD Lawyers - Share Your Tips

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Aug 14, 2020 10:21 pm

Three things that I have had some success with:

1. listen to a song I never listen to except during work. It's basically white noise but it helps me focus.
2. work in 55min on 5 min off increments, along with what my therapist called "chunking" 55/5 is an old habit from online poker tournaments
3. I literally put what I am supposed to do on a piece of paper, check off little things as I go and then throw the paper away when I am done. The clear visual goal, kinetic feedback of checking off something physical, and throwing away physical piece of paper, and most importantly, looking forward to literally throwing the paper away helped.

I am still trying to do all of the above and other things that I've been coached to do. But it's a struggle.

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