More than 22 percent of participants reported that they have felt their use of alcohol or other substances was “problematic” at some point in their lives. Also, 20.6 percent screened positive for hazardous, harmful and potentially alcohol-dependent drinking. The report found that between 21-36 percent of attorneys qualify as problem drinkers. The study also revealed alarming levels of depression, anxiety and stress among attorneys: 28 percent had experienced symptoms of depression, 19 percent had experienced symptoms of anxiety and 23 percent had experienced symptoms of stress. Of those who responded, 11.5 percent indicated that they had suicidal thoughts at some point in their career, with 2.9 percent reporting self-injurious behaviors and 0.7 percent reporting at least one prior suicide attempt.
CoLAP strongly believes that the report should serve as a wakeup call and a call to action for the legal profession. As a result of the report the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being has been created by a consortium of organizations. i The National Task Force is now in the process of drafting a report with recommendations as a guideline for making fundamental improvements in our profession. Although the legal profession has known for at least 25 years that many of its students and practitioners are languishing, far too little has been done to address it. The legal profession has been plagued with a multitude of troubles including depression, anxiety, suicide, alcohol abuse, social alienation, stress, work addiction, sleep deprivation, job dissatisfaction, complaints of work-life conflict, incivility, a narrowing of values so that profit predominates, a diversity problem, and negative public perception.
Too many in our profession find themselves drained of civility and compassion, and plagued by chronic stress, poor self-care, and high rates of depression, anxiety and alcohol abuse. The result is that the legal profession is not living up to its full potential as an institution in which attorneys can thrive, best serve their clients, and contribute to a better society. The National Task Force report will provide specific recommendations tailored for the all of the stakeholders in the legal community: judges, regulators, legal employers, law schools, bar associations, and lawyer assistance programs. The report will also provide general recommendations for all of the stakeholders. The National Task Force will use the report and recommendations as a call to action with the hope that it will spur the profession to make much needed changes from the top down that will fundamentally improve our profession by providing a road map for making legal professionals healthier, happier, more competent practitioners.
i Occupations and the prevalence of major depressive disorders, Eaton, W.W., Journal of Occupational Medicine, 32(11), 1079-1087
ii National Organization of Bar Counsel, ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers, National Conference of Chief Justices, ABA Center for Professional Responsibility, ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism, ABA Young Lawyers Division, ABA Law Practice Division, Authors of the CoLAP/Hazelden Study of 2016, and Authors of the 2014 Survey on Law Student Well-being