It has long been known that while the practice of law has many benefits, lawyers are more vulnerable to stress, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse than nearly any other profession. Lawyers are also often help-resistant and have difficulty admitting vulnerability as they are the ones that are supposed to provide help and answers. Recently, the NYSBA Task Force on Attorney Well-Being conducted a review to help address the mental health crisis in the field. Over 3,000 attorneys responded to the survey and gave critical insights into the positive and negative factors that impact the health and well-being of members of the legal community.
Respondents indicated that the greatest impacts on lawyer well-being were a lack of boundaries and feeling like they had no downtime and were always on call, client expectations and demands, and financial pressures in the “business of law.” Only 8% utilized an Employee Assistance Program. Individuals working for Legal Aid were the most willing to use a confidential resource provided by the bar association or an affiliated organization, and members of the judiciary were least willing to use a resource like this. 71% of new lawyers (i.e., 0-5 years practicing) reported that they would consider such a resource. The top three overall requests to assist with health were a discounted gym membership, free or low-cost counseling, and a request that NYSBA advocate for cultural change.
A lack of willingness to engage in confidential resources poses a problem for the practice of law. Lawyers who are experiencing stressful life events, unmanageable workloads, and financial pressures are more likely to use poor judgment and be involved in malpractice claims and discipline proceedings. Despite this, and the fact that lawyers are suffering with staggering rates of mental illness, the legal profession has been reluctant to make changes. However, promoting and prioritizing lawyer well-being will reduce costs, increase lawyer efficiency and improve profit margins, benefiting both lawyers and the profession.
In the survey, lawyers were also asked if they believed that substance abuse and/or mental health CLEs were important. Approximately 83% reported that education in these areas is important. Additionally, 85% of lawyers agreed that preventive attorney wellbeing programming is important. These results highlight the fact that lawyers recognize the need for education in these areas despite an unwillingness to seek treatment for themselves. Law schools also need to recognize the need for these types of programs, providing students with education on well-being related topics so that they are better prepared to enter the field after graduation.
The field of law is ready to recognize the need for wellbeing programming. TLC Virtual Resiliency is here to provide customized workshops focused on the promotion of well-being that can be tailored to your law firm’s needs. If you are interested in learning more about our services, contact us today!