Cindy Rendon | Overcoming Burnout: A Lawyer’s Guide

Uncover the powerful journey of an attorney who navigated through the perils of burnout to rediscover her passion for law and life…

Today’s episode features Cynthia Rendon, owner of Rendon Law Firm, PLLC, and author of “Judge Me Not: An Attorney’s Journey of Healing from Burnout.” Cynthia shares how she transformed her practice as a lawyer to overcome burnout–and how other lawyers can do the same.

She’ll cover:

  • The pivotal moment that propelled her to confront burnout head-on and seek a healthier, more balanced approach to her career and life.
  • Practical and effective strategies that can help any attorney avoid the brink of burnout and thrive both professionally and personally.
  • The importance of setting firm boundaries and the revolutionary impact of time-blocking on productivity and mental health.
  • And more.

Mentioned in this episode:


​​Cindy Rendon: You don’t have to leave the legal profession. You can create the type of practice that you want that makes you happy. You don’t have to drudge through this. You don’t have to be chained to your desk. And this isn’t a life sentence.

Voiceover: You’re listening to The Texas Family Law Insiders podcast, your source for the latest news and trends in family law in the state of Texas. Now, here’s your host, attorney Holly Draper.

Holly Draper: Today we’re excited to welcome Cynthia Rendon to The Texas Family Law Insiders podcast. Cindy is the owner of Rendon Law Firm, PLLC, a family law firm in Sugar Land, Texas. She has a BS from Southern Methodist University and a JD from the University of Texas School of Law. Cindy is a trial lawyer who feels most comfortable advocating for clients in a courtroom and arguing their cases.

She’s been recognized as a top lawyer by Houstonia Magazine in adoption, marital, and family law every year for the past several years. She’s also been recognized as a super lawyer and as a best attorney by the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys. Cindy has written a book called Judge Me Not: An Attorney’s Journey of Healing from Burnout. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Cindy: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here. And you know, just talk about my journey from professional burnout.

Holly: So why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background?

Cindy: Sure. I’m originally from Dallas. So I know your stomping grounds, although it looks very different from when I lived there. I have always been a high achiever, which I talked about in my book, and how it led to my burnout. But I was the valedictorian of my high school, I went to the government law magnet. I got a full-ride, four-year full tuition scholarship at SMU in Dallas, finished that went straight into law school. Went to UT in Texas, like you said, and then started off at the DA’s office up in Collin County.

And it was a lot of fun. I loved that work, had student loans that were due and so transitioned into private practice working for civil litigation firms where I practiced for many years. Insurance defense, and pharmaceutical companies, represented Bridgestone Firestone in their tire litigation. Was traveling, sometimes, depending on the docket, I was going down to the valley for the tire litigation. Representing Merck and Wyeth in their pharmaceutical litigation.

And then eventually I got tired of practicing defense work of representing companies. And so in 2010, I decided to go hang my own shingle. And I initially had a law partner, because it was the fear of starting your own practice. So it’s always easier when you have a partner to jump off. And then I went as a true solo in 2012. And I decided I wanted to represent people. I wanted to have relationships with people.

I got tired of representing companies, you can’t give a hug to a brick building. And it just felt like it was moving money from one side of the spreadsheet to another on the defense work. So since 2010, I’ve been representing clients in primarily family law. And then I have a side practice of plaintiff personal injury. But I would say 99% of my practice is family law.

Holly: So you touched on this a little already, but how would you describe your current practice?

Cindy: My current practice, it’s still 100% litigation. Every year, for the most part, it’s always been primarily family law. I would say anywhere between 75%. Some years, it’s been 100% family law. But I just got appointed by one of the judges to be a guardian ad litem on a personal injury case. So I do that type of work as well when I say personal injury.

But I would say primarily my practice is family law. You get a lot of that secondary trauma, that compassion fatigue, because your clients, they’re going through a hard time emotionally. You’re the sponge that absorbs it. And I did not have the tools in place to help me to deal with that and to help to be able to not compartmentalize but to be able to say, okay, this is my lawyer hat.

And here’s my here’s my empathy hat. I was feeling too much sympathy and not enough empathy, which I learned is a huge difference through therapy, that it’s good to have empathy for your clients. You don’t want to have sympathy because that’s when you get too wrapped up in their day-to-day emotions.

Holly: So today, we’re going to talk about something that many lawyers experience, but I don’t think too many actually talk about, and that is attorney wellness and how to avoid and recover from burnout. So can you start by giving us a little bit about your story when it comes to burnout?

Cindy: Sure. It was a long road coming. You don’t realize it. Lawyers, we’re high achievers anyway. And for me, it finally came to a head in 2021. I think I think the lockdown with COVID contributed to that because you were no longer, just the isolation of not having your colleagues to talk to and you know, misery loves company. Like, can you believe what this judge did? And just having that outlet to vent to helped bring it all to a head.

But I was already on that trajectory to burnout. I didn’t have any boundaries in place. I didn’t even know what boundaries were, honestly. My entire career from day one, I was taught first day on the job was the client always comes first. And I worked 24/7. I was available 24/7. There was really no such thing in my mind as downtime. If a partner called you, or another attorney who you were working with needed help, you dropped or whatever you were doing, and you helped them.

If the client needed something you did whatever you had to to help them. And I remember my first civil litigation job, we got BlackBerries. And I was so excited to have that BlackBerry. It was novel technology to always be available, to not have to plug into my computer to check emails, because I could just get it on my Blackberry.

So then it became one of those like, oh, my BlackBerry, because you’re always available. You can be in bed at night, and you hear that little buzzing going off. And you know, as Type A personalities, as lawyers that we are, your natural instinct is to, let me put my glasses on and check my email. Who’s looking for me, and you want to respond. So that was life until 2021. That was my life. Always being available.

Holly: So what was, what changed for you? What was the tipping point?

Cindy: I had a couple of clients who needed more resources than I personally was able to provide. And I say like emotional resources. And because I didn’t have boundaries, because I did the big nono in family law, which is giving out your personal cell number. I was getting text messages all day, all evening. I’d get text messages over the weekend.And I would respond, you know, because you’re a natural, like, let me respond. I was getting burned out.

But it was, I had a handful in one year of clients that were just, whose expectations, who I wasn’t able to manage their expectations in a way. And then because of my background of being a people pleaser of having this fawn response, they took it internally that they’re not happy that they’re not divorced.

And what am I doing wrong? And I remember the day I finally reached out to a therapist, I was leaving the law library. And thought of having to get in my car and go back to my office, my eyes just filled with tears. And I’m like, okay, this is it. I have to get professional help. I can’t fix this myself.

Holly: So why do you think family lawyers, in particular, are really susceptible to burnout?

Cindy: Because of collective compassion fatigue. Because we are dealing with good people going through a hard time. And divorce isn’t easy. Even as the client, they know it’s the best decision for them, for their family, and for their children, it’s still a difficult process. It’s still the death of a relationship. The death of your dreams that they’re going through and having to process. And I think family lawyers are a special breed.

You have to have that compassion. This is not something that you’re getting into, because I just want to you know, I just want to make the big bucks and I don’t care. You have to care for your clients. And I’ve learned through, I’m still talking to my therapist, I do it more refining my life at this point.

But I’ve learned through therapy, that taking care of myself, and setting boundaries for my own mental health helps me to be more present for my clients, and helps me to help them. And then I do trickle-down therapy with my clients because I am able to, like here’s some stuff that I’ve learned. And I’m open to everybody about like I went to therapy and there’s there’s no shame in reaching out for help.

Holly: I think as family lawyers, we are very often referring all of our clients to therapists because looking at from the outside their situation, it’s easy for us to be like, you need therapy. That’s gonna help. But we don’t look inwardly on that and see, okay, well, maybe I do too.

Cindy: Well, and I think as a lawyer as a professional, in terms of my clients, the therapy, relating it to them was one having self-compassion, because I had to train myself that it is okay not to respond and be available to my clients 24/7. It is okay to have set office hours. It is okay not to respond to them on the weekends. It doesn’t make me a bad lawyer. It doesn’t make me a bad person. I had to learn that.

That was a struggle in the beginning because of my just people pleasing, but I know what they need, they just need to have some reassurance. They can get the reassurance from their friends, from their church, from a divorce support group. I’m their professional. I’m here to move their case along to help them get from A to B and help them reach their objectives to the extent that I’m able to.

So for me, it was learning to be compassionate to myself and not be so hard on myself. I didn’t create the facts. I’m not the one who married this person, I’m not the one, fill in the blank with whatever it is that they’re upset about. And like I didn’t make that choice. All I can do is work with what I’ve been provided and try to get you the best outcome possible.

And so a lot of that was just giving myself permission to, I’m not responsible for the choices that got them up to this point. And I’m not responsible for what the judge does. I can present my case, I prepare the pleadings and get my evidence submitted, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be the judge’s, for the most part in family law, it’s abuse of discretion, which is just so loosey-goosey.

And that’s why I’m also a huge advocate of the mediation process. Let’s get into mediation, we all can be creative, you know what works for your family, instead of leaving it to the whim and discretion of a judge, who you have a temporary orders hearing, okay, you each get 30 minutes. That’s not gonna be enough time to flush out what your needs are.

Let’s go to mediation. Let’s try to work something out that may not be ideal, but you can live with it. So I had to learn self-compassion to give myself permission to set boundaries, because that was new to me, having boundaries. But that’s the biggest thing that therapy has taught me.

Voiceover: This episode of The Texas Family Law Insiders podcast is sponsored by The Draper Law Firm. Providing family law appellate representation for non-parent custody cases, jurisdictional issues, property division, standing, conservatorship, possession and access, termination, parental rights, and grandparent access. For more information, visit, or call 469-715-6801.

Holly: So let’s go through some strategies that attorneys can implement to help them avoid burnout. Hopefully, the sooner the better before they get past that point of no return. But you mentioned several times setting boundaries. I think this is something I’ve been pretty good at for a long time.

I think in terms of my phone does not ring unless it’s between nine and five on a weekday. Nobody gets my cell phone number. I don’t text with people. I’ll respond to your email on Monday morning. What are some good boundaries that you think attorneys should be setting?

Cindy: First and foremost, is cell phones. I did not know that. And I now have a second phone line. It’s a Google, I don’t even have to pay a lot for it. And what I love about it is I can set do not disturb hours. And so we’re I don’t even get a notification. I’m able to have it go to my personal cell phone. And so I can respond. If I’m in court, I can look at my cell phone, kill time, and just respond to a quick text.

It also comes into my inbox. And so I can save it to the client file. So there’s always that communication. I can import all the text messages and save those to the client file. But that’s the biggest thing for me was separating out my personal cell phone and having a business cell phone. Then setting up those do-not-disturb hours on my phone so that I don’t even see if I have a message waiting for me.

So if it’s after hours, I have my set office hours, if it’s after 5pm, I’m not going to see your text because it just doesn’t even pop up until the next morning. And definitely on the weekends. Voicemail, but my phone doesn’t even ring, it will just go straight to voicemail. And I don’t even get an alert about that. So I would say for me the cell phones. A lot of people already know not to do that. I didn’t know. So live and learn.

Another thing that was a huge, huge help for me was blocking time. I talk about that a little bit in my book, how I actually did some independent contractor work for another attorney doing civil litigation, because I’m like, this is a different mindset, a different flow with that type of docket. It caused more stress, which caused me, which taught me, it doesn’t really matter the type of work, you have to know the underlying issue.

The underlying issue for me was, how am I managing my stress? How am I managing the emotional ups and downs of a docket? And so, one thing I implemented though when I did that was blocking time. I blocked the actual days. Tuesdays and Thursdays were my civil defense days to just work on this other caseload. I’ve realized, after a few months that that was not sustainable, to have two separate dockets.

So I quit doing that work with the other attorney and strictly doing my own. But I’ve kept that practice of blocking days. And so where I don’t schedule phone calls. Unless it’s an emergency, I might schedule a call, but they can wait till the next day when I’m not blocking my days.

And that’s honestly what helps me get through my workload, catch up on the drafting pleadings, and actually be more proactive on my cases where I’m responding to my cases, and not just reacting and putting out fires. And so that’s helped a lot with my peace of mind. Part of the blocking is also blocking out your personal time. So again, with my set office hours, not working on weekends.

That for me is blocking time as well because you have to have your downtime. And I used to feel really guilty, even again, it was giving myself permission to have this downtime. I used to feel really guilty in the beginning for not doing work on the weekends. And I wouldn’t work but I would still feel bad about it. And I would still think about it. And I’m like, okay, I’m still, I may as well work if I’m going to still think about it and feel bad about it.

And I had to actually actively work on, it’s okay, I will just work late one night during the week to do stuff that I would have done on the weekend. So that I can truly unplug and enjoy my weekend. And I’ve been doing that now for over a year where I, but I had to give myself permission, which is crazy to say, like, I had to give myself permission.

I’m my own boss, and I’m giving myself permission. But I had to feel that in my heart, the emotion of it’s okay not to work on the weekend. Have your downtime, have your unplugged time. And then there is one day during the week. It’s whatever day I feel like it but one day during the week, I will work you know till 10 or 11 at night.

But in exchange, I truly have two days on the weekend that are my days. So those are the big things. I talk about some more in my book. But it’s having your set office hours, no unscheduled calls. Just like you, I typically don’t answer my phone. I haven’t lost a client because of it. I also think it’s respectful of other people and their time and their schedules so that you’re not playing phone tag back and forth.

With my clients, I’m like, text me. My firm is very text-friendly. I always think of that meme, if you can text it, don’t call. But I’m like, text me. If it’s something that’s a quick answer, I’m happy to do that. Or we can schedule a time to actually talk. But no unscheduled phone calls because you have to respect each other’s time and each other’s calendars.

Holly: See, I tend to think that texting is a source of great stress, and in my personal life by text all the time, and I’d much rather text than talk to somebody on the phone. But when it comes to work, I never text with clients. The only time we ever do is if we’ve emailed something to a client and it is urgent, and they might not see it for a while, we might send them a text that simply says, check your emails, there’s something important there.

But I think it’s kind of figuring out what works best for you and the life that you’re trying to have. And is that not using text? Is it using text? Is it you know, doing everything via email or whatever. On time blocking, that’s something, I hear a lot about time blocking, and it’s something I aspire to do better. I have every Monday completely blocked off. No one is allowed to put anything on a Monday unless they ask me first.

I always block off Friday afternoon, the same way, but I’m not very good about blocking things like, okay, in this time frame is when I will do consults. And in this timeframe is when I’m going to draft or whatever. This is when I talk to clients. Do you do that type of time blocking, or are you just doing the broader picture?

Cindy: Yes, I do that type of time blocking as well. So I have my time, like Monday mornings, I don’t schedule anything. Because you have to ease back into the week. And then I have my Tuesdays that I block, Tuesdays and Thursdays I still block. Again, there are always exceptions. So I may schedule something. But it’s the exception, not the rule in terms of scheduling on my blocked days. I do try to schedule my consults in the afternoons.

But I always hold off some time on Friday mornings for consults. And then absolutely my Friday afternoons, I block those. And again, if it’s something that a client or prospective client, that’s the only time they have, then I’ll put them on my calendar, but I’ll offer them something else instead. Because otherwise you spend your time on the phone and you’re never actually getting your substantive work done.

Holly: And I found, this kind of fits the time blocking, kind of fits the other boundaries as well. Clients might think the only time they have available is Friday afternoon. But if you hold firm to your I don’t do consults on Friday afternoon, you can have this time or this time, the vast majority of the time they’re going to make it work. And they’re going to pick one of those times. Attorneys can be tempted to give in too quickly on those boundaries. It’s about setting them and actually keeping them.

Cindy: Oh, yeah. The times that I’ve been more flexible with my boundaries, I’ve regretted it. So yeah, just live and learn. I mean, when I first started my practice, I met with some people on the weekends, and I’m like, never again. Especially for prospective clients. You don’t need to meet with someone on a weekend. But when you’re first starting out, you’re building your reputation, you’re building your practice, I would meet with people on a Saturday.

And then sometimes they would hire me other times, I would never hear from them again. And I’m like, I’ve just given up my Saturday. I had to get dressed, had to put makeup on to come out. But with practice, with trial and error, it does get easier to have these boundaries. But I never even knew what a boundary was. I’m like what is a boundary?

People talk about self-care. What is your self-care? You have these big concepts, but what are they really? And how do you really implement them? And that was really the impetus for writing the book. Because I make 30 cents per book. I didn’t do this to get rich and have a second career, or income stream. But I did it because I knew what I went through. And like I say, in my book, I just wanted to help people who were because like you recognize, a lot of attorneys don’t talk about what they’re feeling.

And in writing this, I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from people who have left the legal profession because of burnout. And they’re like, yeah, this describes exactly what I was going through. And so and also to help people who are just entering the legal profession, look, here’s some things that you can do, from the get-go to protect your mental health, to help you not have this compassion fatigue.

And have work-life balance, but to have this good work-life balance, where you don’t get to the point where I did, where I’m walking around with tears in my eyes and telling everyone there must be lots of pollen in the air, or the point where I’m reaching out to somebody for help.

Holly: I know one of the things you talk about in your book is unchaining from your desk.

Cindy: Yes.

Holly: Can you tell us what you mean by that?

Cindy: That goes back with this is your downtime. In the evenings, I mean, I may work past five, but I’m not responding to emails, I’m not talking to opposing counsel, talking to clients. If I do work on the weekend, that’s my choice. But I really haven’t been, unless I have court on Monday and I have to do some last-minute preparation. I’ve been really good about keeping that boundary.

So unplugging from your desk is. And I’ve learned as well that you know what, even though I may have something scheduled the next day, it just helps with blocking time. Because if you block your time, then you don’t have to do things at the last minute, because you have this time on your calendar that you’re able to do it during normal working hours.

So that’s helped me to be able to unplug because, hey, I have this mediation, and next month, guess what, my mediation notebook is already done. We already have the discovery, everything summarized, and I already know what I need. And it’s just going to be supplementing that the days before mediation or the week before.

But I’m not going to be scrambling a week before like, oh, I need this document and this document. Because I’m already there. And so that lets me go to a concert with my husband or go on a girl’s weekend trip. Enjoy life and unplug from the desk.

Holly: So we talked about what can we do to avoid it. Let’s talk about people who are already there. They are burned out. They hate life, they hate their job, they hate practicing law. What advice would you give someone who has reached the point of burnout already?

Cindy: So somebody who’s actively in burnout, I would say talk to a therapist and start, it’s baby steps. You can’t completely overhaul your practice in one night. Because that’s scary. So baby steps. Some baby steps may be to set your office hours. Baby steps may be to start blocking half a day, not a full day. Block your mornings and blocking off an afternoon. Something that so you don’t freak out. It’s just taking a little bitty steps.

And then when you feel more comfortable, maybe you block one whole day during the week. It was foreign to me initially to block on Fridays. I was like, well, my hours are from here to here. But I’m like, no, it’s okay. It’s okay to say my office closes at noon on Fridays. And it’s my choice if I want to work or if I want to schedule something. But for somebody who’s actively in burnout, the biggest thing I would say would be would get a good therapist.

I have the stress dojo, he’s on Zoom. All of our sessions are on Zoom. I’ve never met him in person, we’ve never had a session in person. And I’m fine with that. As a busy professional, it’s easier for me to log into Zoom than it is to get in my car and have to drive to his office. So and that’s honestly what made it sustainable for me to stay in therapy.

Holly: And I’ll see a lot of attorneys posting in these various Facebook groups about how burned out they are, how much they hate what they’re doing, it can be, they can be doing any type of legal work and experience this. Something that I am always thinking is, okay, you don’t have to stop practicing law to get past your burnout.

Maybe you do need to find a different job. Or maybe you do need to start your own practice. If you’re in an environment that is causing, is a large part of the problem, you may not be able to implement these boundaries, depending on the boss, or the nature of the work. But there are a lot of options out there within the legal world that you can get away from those things.

Cindy: If you’re burned out because of litigation, take a break. Go in-house somewhere, and do transactional work. But you don’t have to leave the practice of law. You don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Because you have to learn what is the underlying cause of your burnout. What got you to this point?

If it’s emotional regulation, okay, let’s learn some techniques to deal with that. Learn how to breathe. Meditate or do a mindfulness practice. Start running. Pick up something other than law, because this isn’t your life. This is a means to having a life. But it can’t be your life, that’s not sustainable.

You have to have that break and have time with your friends, have time with your family, so that you can be more present for your clients. Because you’ve had that downtime, you’ve been able to reset yourself emotionally and reset yourself mentally. So that when you are working on their case, you’re present and working on their case.

Holly: So where can people go if they want to get a copy of your book?

Cindy: You can go to Amazon. I’m self-published. So I just learned everything about self-publishing. And that’s been just such a wonderful thing, that you’re not having to rely on the big book publishers anymore. But it’s on Amazon, it’s available via Kindle, or they can purchase a book. I think I priced it at $2.99 for the book.

Again, I didn’t do this to make money. If anybody wants a copy of it, I’m happy to mail a copy. They can reach out to me through my website, Or they can just get on Amazon if they look for Judge Me Not, and it’ll pop up. But I’m happy to mill up it for free. I did this because I want people to realize that you don’t have to leave the legal profession, you can create the type of practice that you want that makes you happy.

You don’t have to drudge through this, you don’t have to be chained to your desk. You know, this isn’t a life sentence. And you know, to help other attorneys who are just starting the practice. So these are things that they don’t teach you in law school.

And these are things they certainly don’t teach you when you’re working at a law firm. It’s all about getting your billable hours in. They don’t care about quality of life. Your life is the firm. And that’s the mindset that I grew up in, that you’re paying your dues to the firm because one day you’re going to be a partner.

But it’s not sustainable. So that they can go to Amazon, they can buy my book there. They can get the Kindle or the paperback version, or I’m happy to mail them a copy. But if they buy it from Amazon, I get 30 cents.

Holly: So we’re just about out of time. But one thing I like to ask everyone who comes on the podcast is if you could give one piece of advice to young family lawyers, what would it be?

Cindy: It would be to learn how to have boundaries. To set block time, just for yourself, or just to work on your cases. And don’t give out your personal cell. That’s more than one piece of advice, but.

Holly: Yes, both are very critical, in my opinion. So you mentioned your website. Is that the best place where people can go if they want to learn more about you?

Cindy: If they want to learn more about me, yes, they go to So c y n t h i a r e n d o

Holly: Perfect. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. For our listeners, if you enjoyed this podcast please take a second to leave us a review and subscribe so you can enjoy future episodes.

Voiceover: The Texas Family Law Insiders podcast is sponsored by The Draper Law Firm. We help people navigate divorce and child custody cases and handle family law appellate matters. For more information, visit our website at

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