The number of law firms signing on to support the American Bar Association’s innovative campaign targeting substance-use disorders and mental health issues among lawyers has tripled in about two months.
Launched in mid-September, the initiative drew support from some of the nation’s largest law firms, with 13 firms pledging to adopt its framework for improved lawyer well-being. Through last week, 39 firms had signed on.
“We are encouraged by the strong commitment of these firms to improve the health of lawyers in this country,” ABA President Bob Carlson said. “Too many lawyers have struggled with alcohol or other substance-use or mental health disorders. And many more of us have watched friends wrestle with these problems. This pledge campaign gives these issues the attention they deserve by raising awareness throughout the profession and making help available to lawyers in need. I hope more law firms will consider taking the pledge.”
The campaign, organized by the ABA Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession, is designed to address the profession’s troubling rates of alcohol and other substance-use disorders, as well as mental health issues. Recent studies have documented that lawyers struggle with these problems at levels substantially higher than both the general population and other highly educated professionals.
Any employer with attorneys on its payroll can take the pledge, which can be tailored to meet individual employer needs. To make the pledge, a firm/employer only needs to confirm its intentions to improve the well-being of its lawyers by emailing Tracy Kepler, ABA Center for Professional Responsibility director, at firstname.lastname@example.org. In a year or so, the firm/employer will be asked to identify the steps taken to improve lawyer well-being.
Former ABA President Hilarie Bass established the working group in September 2017 to make recommendations about what legal employers can do to improve the current state of attorney mental health and substance-use issues. Carlson, her successor, has asked the group to continue its work through his one-year term.
- ABA resource page on lawyer impairment
- Well-being toolkit for law firms and legal employers
- Landmark ABA-Hazelden Betty Ford study on lawyer well-being (2016)
- Report from the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being (2017)
- ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs
- ABA Journal selected coverage of lawyer well-being:
- Column by then-President Hilarie Bass (December 2017)
- The time to help lawyers with mental health services is now, new report says” (2017)
- Tales of addiction: What every attorney should know about alcohol and substance abuse” (2018)