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Carlson and Bass address lawyer wellness at national forum

American Bar Association President Bob Carlson and Immediate Past President Hilarie Bass spoke this week at a two-day national town hall meeting that explored addiction, anxiety and depression in the legal profession.

ABA Immediate Past President Hilarie Bass and current President Bob Carlson

ABA Immediate Past President Hilarie Bass and current President Bob Carlson

The conference – Feb. 28 and March 1 at the University of Miami – brought together top medical experts, judges and lawyers from across the country. It examined the recommendations of the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being and discuss best practices. The event was sponsored by the University of Miami, Duke University and the Dade County Bar Association.

A 2016 survey of 13,000 lawyers by the ABA and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation found that drinking and mental illness are more pervasive among lawyers than among other professionals. Overall, 21 percent of lawyers reported drinking problems, compared with 6 percent in the general population and 12 percent among other highly educated professionals. The survey also found that 28 percent of lawyers suffer from depression and 19 percent from anxiety.

In 2017, the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being issued a report calling for widespread changes. Many of the 44 recommendations aim to reduce the stigma that prevents many lawyers from seeking help.

A presidential working group also published a toolkit for legal employers, including an eight-step action plan and guidance on conducting a policy and practice audit. In September 2018, the ABA launched a campaign for legal employers to pledge to improve lawyer well-being. So far, 74 law firms and legal employers have signed the pledge, including some of the largest law firms in the country.

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