A recent survey of legal practitioners of all stripes continues to paint a disturbing picture of the mental health of our industry. The Liquid Legal Institute’s The Silent Epidemic: Well-Being and Personal Health of Legal Professionals in Times of Digital Transformation and Social Change updates earlier studies, such as the 2016 Hazelden ABA report–garnered from 15,000 lawyers–on the (poor) state of attorneys’ mental health.
“This new research demonstrates how the pressures felt by many lawyers manifest in health risks,” then ABA President Paulette Brown said of that report, which showed very high levels (higher than in doctors and surgeons) of depression, substance abuse, stress, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide. “Any way you look at it,” one of the study architects said, “this data is very alarming, and paints the picture of an unsustainable professional culture that’s harming too many people. Attorney impairment poses risks to the struggling individuals themselves and to our communities, government, economy and society.”
The LLI survey confirms and expands on those concerns. Although limited to responses from only a dozen practitioners, the responses were strongly in agreement in recognizing the stress in law practice that has only been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic and the increase in the use of technology. What’s the solution? Included in the suggestions of those surveyed are: reforming legal education to include mental health and IT skills, using teams and retreats to reduce loneliness, promoting mindfulness, considering different fee structures that reduce time-based pressures, and encouraging a culture that is not focused on perfectionism.
Looks like we still have a lot of work to do to reduce legal practitioner impairments and their consequences.