ABA Makes Lawyer Well-Being A Top Priority

Angelica Cesario | July 11, 2018

Summer’s here - the season for sun, sand, and the great outdoors. Whatever your plans are this summer, we hope you remember to take some time for self-care. Being an attorney can be mentally and emotionally taxing, so it’s important to invest time and energy in your mental health whenever possible.

The American Bar Association (ABA) recently adopted a proposal encouraging law schools, legal employers, and other associated organizations to bolster their mental health and substance abuse programs. In the resolution, the ABA pledges its support for “the goal of reducing mental health and substance use disorders and improving the well-being of lawyers, judges, and law students.” It encourages employers to adopt the recommendations set out in its report entitled The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change. Written by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, the report highlights a number of findings on attorney well-being. The findings are based on comprehensive research conducted over a number of years. Here are some key takeaways:

  • More than one in six law students screen for depression, and more than one in four screen for anxiety;
  • Of the law students who reported needing help for mental health issues, only about half actually received counseling;
  • More than one in five attorneys report behavior consistent with a drinking problem;
  • More than a quarter of attorneys reported some level of depression;
  • More than one out of every 10 attorneys reported suicidal thoughts at some point while practicing law; and
  • Lawyers and law students are reluctant to seek help, for fear of being stigmatized.

Needless to say, the results of the ABA Report are sobering. Still, all hope is not lost. The Task Force issued comprehensive recommendations for employers, which include the following:

  • Emphasize well-being and encourage help-seeking behaviors
  • Partner with Lawyer Assistance Programs
  • Foster collegiality (this includes promoting diversity and inclusivity, and creating mentorship programs)
  • De-emphasize alcohol at social events
  • Begin a dialogue about suicide prevention

Read the entire proposal for more recommendations. The following helpful programs also emphasize the importance of attorney-wellbeing and provide comprehensive resources for addressing issues of mental health:

Lastly, if you or someone you know needs support, reach out to one of the Lawyer Assistance Programs listed in this directory. These programs offer confidential support to anyone in need of assistance.

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About the Author

Written by Angelica Cesario

Angelica Cesario is Lawline's Director of Attorney Education & Development. She graduated cum laude from Amherst College in 2008 and holds a B.A. in Women's and Gender Studies and a Certificate in Latino and Latin American Studies. She received her J.D. from Columbia Law School in 2013 and is admitted to practice law in New York and New Jersey. Before joining Lawline, Angelica worked as a plaintiff-side labor & employment litigation attorney.


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