Lawyers suffer from poor mental health in large numbers.
In the early part of 2016, the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation published their study of nearly 13,000 currently-practicing attorneys from 19 states.
It found that approximately 28 percent, 19 percent, and 23 percent were struggling with some form of depression, anxiety, and stress, respectively. It further discovered that between 21 and 36 percent qualified as problem drinkers.
In the fall of 2016, another study of 3,300 law students from 15 law schools was published. It found that approximately 17 percent, 14 percent, and 25 percent were dealing with some form of depression, anxiety, and problem drinking, respectively.
In 2017, a national task force on lawyer well-being was assembled and its report, “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change," was issued on August 14, 2017. It stated:
"To be a good lawyer, one has to be a healthy lawyer. Sadly, our profession is falling short when it comes to well-being. The two studies referenced above reveal that too many lawyers and law students experience chronic stress and high rates of depression and substance abuse. These findings are incompatible with a sustainable legal profession, and they raise troubling implications for lawyers' basic competency."
The task force specifically called on law firms leaders to (a) "provide training and education on well-being," (b) "reduce stigma surrounding mental health problems," and (c) "establish policies and practice to support lawyer well-being."
Beyond the toll of human suffering caused by these problems, these statistics have a direct impact on a law firm’s bottom line. Each year 217 million workdays are lost due to depression and $193 billion in workplace earnings are lost due to mental illness. Depression is the leading cause of disability in this country. Spending on mental health hit $221 in 2014, making it the single most expensive medical condition in the United States.
The Time has Come to Think and Act Differently:
ADDRESSING MENTAL HEALTH AT LAW FIRMS
Finally, there is an on-site CLE accredited program tailored to the unique needs and work culture of individual law firms to help them address lawyer stress, anxiety, depression, and problem drinking.
It is called "UPlift: A Program to Address Mental Well-Being in Law Firms."
The program was created by Dan Lukasik, a former 30-year accomplished litigator, who has coped with high-stress loads, anxiety, and depression as an associate, a law partner, and a managing partner over his career.
Here is a clip of Dan during a recent presentation discussing the latest statistics on the high rates of lawyer anxiety and depression, some of the causes, his own struggles with depression, and what lawyers and law firms can do about it:
The program ranges in length from the basic one-hour program up to two hours where firm leaders can add additional, more in-depth modules on particular topics. An educational PDF book created by Dan with a list of local resources to get help is also included.
Additional modules include:
- Values and purpose
- Work-life balance
- New lawyer orientation
The benefits of the UPlift program include:
- Increase in lawyer engagement and productivity
- Decrease in costly mistakes that lead to malpractice or grievances
- Reduction in absenteeism, presentism, and disability claims
- Improvement in retention and recruitment of attorneys
- CLE required credits in ethics and professionalism for attorneys
Well-Being Starts at the Top:
PROGRAMMING FOR LAW FIRM MANAGEMENT
Dan can also consult with law firm management and human resource directors to discuss what they can do to create a mentally healthy workplace culture. Such a meeting can be either in-person or by video conference. Assistance in crafting a written well-being policy may also be part of a firm's strategic plan that Dan can assist with.
One-on-one coaching of individual attorneys who need additional help and resources is also available at an hourly rate. Dan has coached lawyers around the country. More about his coaching practice can be found on his website YourDepressionCoach.
Dan’s program can be done on-site at your firm, in a retreat or workshop format, by video conferencing, or webinar. Weekend presentations are also available.
About Dan Lukasik
Dan is the Executive Director of the original 30-minute documentary, "A Terrible Melancholy: Depression in the Legal Profession" and the creator of the website, Lawyerswithdepression.com., the first website of its kind in the United States.
His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The National Law Journal, ABA Journal, Bloomberg Law, Law360, on CNN, and several other national and international media outlets.