The Elephant in the Room at Law Firms? Lawyer Depression

I was 40 years old when depression first struck.

I was a trial lawyer and managing partner at my firm. From the outside, I was successful: a high-paying career, interesting work, a great family, and lots of friends.

From the inside, however, something was terribly wrong.

There was a deep sadness that wouldn’t go away. Before this time, I had gone to therapists for stress-related issues. Therapy always worked. After a few months talking things through, I always felt better and stopped going.

But this time, it was different. Things didn’t get better.

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.

Do You Need To Take Medication For Your Depression?

Today’s guest post is by Dr. Eve Wood, a psychiatrist who treats lawyers, judges, and law students dealing with depression, anxiety, burnout or extreme stress.

Do you find yourself wondering if you need to be on medications for depression, or hoping you can stop them? If so, you are not alone!

In 1980, Americans filled 30 million prescriptions for antidepressants, and in 2010, 30 years later, the number of prescriptions for antidepressants filled had risen to 264 million in a year!

Increasing numbers of attorneys are being diagnosed with and treated for depression. According to the 2017 report of the National Task for on Lawyer Well-Being, …of nearly 13,000 currently practicing lawyers…approximately 28 percent, 19 percent, and 23 percent are struggling with some level of depression, anxiety, and stress, respectively.

How a Depression Coach Can Help Your Law Practice

I know a lot about lawyering and a lot about depression. Because of this, I have a unique perspective, talent and tools to help you solve problems that you must deal with because you’re depressed.

Your therapist and psychologist may know a lot about the causes and cures of clinical depression, but don’t know much about the rigors and stressors of practicing law because they’ve never done it; they’ve never been in the trenches. I have for the past 25 years and know just how tough a job being a lawyer is.

I can relate to your depression because I have lived with it for ten years, facilitated a support group for lawyers for the past six years, talked with hundreds of lawyers with depression from all over the country and mentored and coached many of them. I have been in your shoes as a lawyer coping with depression. I know how much it really hurts. I know how lonely it can be. I know how tired you. I know just how difficult it is to do your job when depressed.

That’s where I come in as a lawyer coach. Here are some of your needs I can meet:

  1. You need someone to listen with a sense of compassion, someone who truly cares about your situation. I am that person. I will care. I will be in your corner.
  2. You need someone to educate you about what depression is, its symptoms and causes.
  3. You need guidance as you weave through the matrix of treatment options to find a plan that works for you.
  4. You need a sense of structure at a time when life may seem pointless and meaningless. I can be an anchor for you, a safe port in a storm, a place to go and share your deepest struggles and concerns about home and work.

I will work with you whatever specific areas are most pressing to you. Here are some areas where depression may be causing real problems you:

  • You need help with getting things done at work. You can’t afford to get behind at work because of the depression symptoms you’re dealing with. I can help by providing insight, support and exercises to help you deal with this critical issue.
  • You want to leave the profession. You’ve been coping with work-related depression for some time and decided that “enough is enough” and want to make plans to transition to another career. I can help you develop your game plan and hold you accountable to following through with taking the necessary steps to make this a reality.
  • You want to stay in the profession. You’ve decided to remain a lawyer, but need to change those factors, both at and outside your job, that are causing or contributing to your depression. I can help you devise a game plan and make sure you follow through to make your life healthier in the law.
  • You’re A Depression Veteran. You might be further down the road in your recovery from depression, but still need help and encouragement. I will work with you to develop a “Wellness Toolkit”, things that you will do and which I will hold you accountable for getting done. Without such accountability, it’s simply too easy to do not to follow a healthy regimen. Here is where a coach can really help to motivate you and help you stick to it to a healthy game plan.
  • You Are Just Plain Unhappy. Many lawyers aren’t clinically depressed, but are very unhappy with their lives. Much of the support I provide and skills for depression sufferers are transferable to getting to the heart of what’s causing your unhappiness. I will work with you to build a different set of skills and make different life choices to lead a better and happier life,
  • You Need Help Explaining Your Depression to Others. For those loved ones and business associates that have never been through depression, it’s difficult for them to really understand your pain because they really don’t have a point of reference for psychic pain someone undergoes with clinical depression. They mistake it for “the blues” or everyday sadness, which it clearly is not. I can work you to develop a language and actions that could help others understand. If you wish, I would also be happy to talk with others as your advocate to educate them about what depression is and ways that might be able to help and support you.

Help is really just a phone call away at 716-674-1010 or via e-mail at

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