Lawyers and Well-Being

A new report by a national task force on lawyer well-being has been issued.  You may find the report here. A number of national groups were included, with representatives from the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Law Practice Division, the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP), the National Organization of Bar Counsel (the lawyer regulations folks), the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers (the ethics lawyers) and many others.

It is no surprise that as a general principle, to be a good lawyer you need to be healthy in body and spirit.  No, this does not mean that if you do not hit the gym five times a week you cannot be a good lawyer.  It doesn’t mean that you have to run marathons, or even half-marathons.  It does mean, however, that we need to be in a condition that will allow us to use our best efforts for our clients.

It is also, by now, no surprise that lawyers are at the top of the range of those experiencing chronic stress, high rates of depression, anxiety and substance abuse, and high rates of suicide.  The report includes specific recommendations for various stakeholders including judges, regulators, employers and Bar associations as well as general recommendations.

The bottom line is that we lawyers need to take better care of ourselves and each other.  We need to stop finger-pointing and stigmatizing those who are suffering and turn our attention to ways in which to assist ourselves and our colleagues.  What do you need to be well?  Do you need to eat better, drink less, exercise more?  Do you need to better manage your stress, get sober or address your anxiety or depression?

There is no easy answer, but this report – on the heels of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundations’s study of mental health and substance abuse among lawyers – should be a wake-up call for all of us to take a moment (or more than a moment) to self-evaluate and decide what we need to increase our own well-being, both physical and mental; it’s also a good time to look around and see if you have a colleague who may need assistance.

Resources and information, as well as confidential peer support, are available from the State Bar’s Member Assistance Program.



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