Depression is one of the leading causes of lost work productivity. A depressed worker is prone to absenteeism and may suffer deteriorating relationships with his or colleagues. This combination of symptoms is problematic in any workplace, but can be devastating in a legal environment because of the critical nature of the work. Yet legal practitioners are especially vulnerable to depression, in part because of the competitive nature of the field.
Mental illness still carries a stigma and your partner may believe an admission of struggling with depression may put his or her jobs on the line. Don’t wait for him or her to come forward, because it is unlikely to happen. Instead, if you see evidence that your law partner is depressed it’s critical to act quickly and decisively.
Signs of Depression
Is your partner taking longer lunches than usual? Is he or she arriving later and leaving earlier than before? Is there a dramatic uptick in absenteeism? Is he or she making careless errors? These are all potential signs of depression, but don’t jump to conclusions.
Make an honest assessment of the situation and take appropriate action based on your observations. If your partner seems sad or worried, but is able to perform most or all of his or her job satisfactorily, that’s a different matter than a depressed partner whose work is suffering.
If your Law Partner Is Depressed
If your law partner is depressed, but his or her work has not declined in quality, your main concern should be encouraging him or her to get help. Approach your law partner with genuine concern. Perhaps he or she simply needs time off, either to recharge or to deal with a specific situation
However, there is a good chance that your law partner will need professional therapy or counseling. If your firm offers such services, mention that to your law partner. Most of all, reassure your law partner that his or her job is not on the line. However, you or your HR department should monitor your partner for signs that matters are getting worse or that he or she is losing control of the situation.
If your Law Partner’s Work Is Suffering
If your law partner’s work has declined in quality, your law firm faces possible legal liability if a client’s case is mishandled as a result. In such circumstances, your approach to your partner should still be one of concern. However, along with concern, you should firmly remind your law partner of his or her responsibility to the firm and urge him or her to seek help.
If your law partner agrees, recognize that treatment often takes time. Be prepared to be flexible with scheduling to allow him or her time for counseling appointments. If necessary, arrange for a temporary leave while he or she seeks treatment.
On the other hand, if your law partner refuses to seek help, you may need to take action to protect the firm. In extreme cases, this might mean removing your law partner’s partnership status. However, taking a proactive approach makes this unfortunate outcome less likely. And if treatment is successful, both your firm and your law partner benefit.
For Further Reading
Anderson Kill Partner Talks Depression among Law Students (and Lawyers)
Dealing With Depression at Work: What You Need to Know
Depression at Work from Purdue University
Depression in the Workplace: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?
How to Talk to a Depressed Employee
This guest post was contributed by Paul Kasparov on behalf MayoWynneBaxter.co.uk – a Commercial Solicitors firm. Paul is a freelance writer and retired clinical psychologist. He enjoys his writing and his articles appear on various health blogs.