How Can We Take Better Care of Our Attorneys?
In my day-to-day, I do a lot of research. Researching whatever information I can find about law firms and attorneys that I feel might be a good fit for ALPS's book of business.
Sometimes, as was the case today, my research bears grim findings.
Today, I came across an obituary for an attorney that passed over a decade ago. This individual took their own life in a rest stop off of a busy highway in the middle of nowhere, alone. I couldn't help but have a very visceral reaction to this, which I found odd as I had no connection with this individual.
Nonetheless, for whatever reason, I felt this person's struggle; I empathized with their decade-old pain. The loneliness they must have felt; the agony that lead to the end of their path.
This isn't the first time and, unfortunately, won't be the last I read the obituary of an attorney, a person, lost to suicide.
The self-reported rate of "having experienced a major depressive episode" in the U.S. is 8.4% of all adults. Compare this finding to the ALM's 2022 Mental Health Survey, which found that 35% of attorneys answered "yes" to the simple question, "Do you feel depressed?" and it makes me wonder what causes such a stark difference.
The survey went on to question what factors lead to attorneys' feelings of poor mental health, to which the most prevalent responses were “always on call/can’t disconnect"; “billable hour pressures"; “client demands"; and “lack of sleep.”
The theme I see in these potential causes of poor attorney health is that either as clients we have too high of expectations for our attorneys, attorneys have a hard time setting and maintaining boundaries between their professional and personal time and energy, or some combination of both.
Obviously, I'm not here to even attempt to drum up a solution to a problem that is incredibly complex, but I wanted to do my part to elevate the conversation, stories, and evidence behind this phenomenon in the practice of law.
According to the ALM, nearly 1 in 5 attorneys I call each day have contemplated suicide in the last year. How do we reduce that number to 0?