February 18, 2021

New ABA survey outlines lawyer stress and post-pandemic best practices

CHICAGO, Feb. 18, 2021 — Lawyers amid the COVID-19 pandemic feel overwhelmed by the pressures of their work — especially women with children and lawyers of color — with many considering leaving the legal profession, according to a new survey by the American Bar Association.

Findings from the national survey of 4,400 ABA members were presented Feb. 17 at the webinar, “Practice Forward: State-of-the-Art Best Practices for a Profession Impacted by the Pandemic,” which was part of the 2021 ABA Virtual Midyear Meeting.

The survey, one of the largest ever by the ABA, was conducted in fall 2020 to learn about the current and future expectations of practicing lawyers as well as their concerns, needs and goals moving forward.

While working remotely appeals to most lawyers, “Many members feel completely overwhelmed with all they have to do,” said Stephanie Scharf of the Chicago-based Red Bee Group, which designed and managed the survey. They worry about employer support, client access, developing business and meeting billable hour requirements. Scharf said high levels of stress are particularly experienced by women with young children who often felt overlooked for assignments and worried that their employers viewed them as not committed to their work.

Co-presenter Roberta Liebenberg of the Red Bee Group said women want more supportive, engaged and empathetic employers who are flexible and supportive. Women lawyers also want more comprehensive plans for sick and family leave, and subsidies for child care, tutoring and family care.

The data also revealed opportunities for the ABA to provide members with needed guidance on technology support, wellness and implementation of diversity and inclusion programs.

Scharf and Liebenberg agreed that now is a fantastic time for leaders in the profession to rethink their paradigms to set long-term goals and strategies for their organizations. Best practices for employers moving forward include:

·         Increased use of metrics

·         Frequent, transparent and empathetic communications with employees

·         Greater use of flex-time and part-time policies

·         Reimagining firm compensation systems and billable hour requirements

·         Strengthening wellness and mental health programs

·         Growth in diversity, equity and inclusion strategies

The full report will be released in March.

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