One Trial Lawyer’s Tale: What Happens When Law Firms Don’t Talk About Mental Illness

The following blog was submitted by an anonymous lawyer.

Once upon a time, I was a trial attorney at a personal injury defense firm. I was good at it.  I always pushed hard; always did the best job possible.  I won a good share of cases, and, of course, lost a few as well.  I was valued highly enough to be made a partner shortly after joining the firm.

But I had a dirty little secret.  I had bipolar disorder, which was well-controlled through a close partnership with a good psychiatrist.  Still, in my mind, if word ever got out, my employers would see me as weak, a liability.  To a degree, I understood.  If the insurance companies that paid the bills learned that one of the firm’s trial attorneys had such a condition, their mandate would be clear: if you want our business, get rid of him. That is what I assumed.

Throughout my career, colleagues would make offhanded remarks about someone “not taking his medication.” I would grit my teeth and ignore it.

Why We Need to Talk About Lawyers’ Mental Health Now

Big law has a big problem.

The reality that lawyers suffer from high rates of mental health problems, addiction, and problem drinking can no longer be denied in light of the 2016 study conducted by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation which has a nationally renowned drug and alcohol treatment center.

Now what?

A “National Task Force on Attorney Well-Being” was assembled following this study to make recommendations on what law schools, law firms, bar associations, and others, can do about these serious problems. I have read both the study, the task force’s report, and recent press reports coverage about how the recommendations of the task force are to be implemented.

To be frank, I am disappointed.

Breaking Mental Health Stigma With Workplace Programs

Daniel Lukasik, a longtime proponent of mental well being within the legal and greater Buffalo communities, national voice as part of the work being done to combat stigma in the United States, and creator of this website, lawyerswithdepression.com, has been named new director of workplace well-being for the Mental Health Association of Erie County.  Read more here.

Beyond Biglaw: Embracing Stress

Attorney Gaston Kroub blogs in Above the Law: “The general consensus is that many lawyers lead stressful lives. Whether it is the pressures of handling deals, the emotional toll of counseling broken families in a matrimonial dispute, or the general demands of life as a litigator, stress is an ever-present condiment on the sandwich meat that is a lawyer’s life. At the same time, lawyers are generally considered to have plenty of experience managing stress, due to their having survived law school, the bar exam, and even today’s broken job market for recent graduates.” Read the rest of his blog.

How to Defy Your Genes

This AARP Magazine article features Buffalo, New York lawyer, Dan Lukasik.  The article tells Dan’s story about growing up in a home with two parents who suffered from depression and what he’s done to address his depression differently to better cope.  Read the News

The Ugly Truth About Major Depressive Disorder

Blogger, Courtney Bridgman writes, “Each step I am taking has 1,000 thoughts of why I should just go back to bed and forget about making any attempts. Everything hurts. Heaviness on my heart, heaviness in my head, a black and dark sadness in my eyes and soul.” Read the Blog

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