In episode three of the new podcast, Path to Well-Being in Law, co-hosts Chris Newbold and Bree Buchanan check in with lawyer well-being pioneer Patrick Krill. Recognized globally as a leading authority on addiction, mental health, and well-being in the legal profession, Patrick is an attorney and a licensed, board-certified alcohol and drug counselor. He serves as a trusted advisor to large law firms and corporate legal departments throughout North America and Europe, educating them about and helping them navigate addiction, mental health, and well-being issues on a daily basis.

Patrick’s groundbreaking work in the area of attorney behavioral health includes: initiating and serving as lead author of the first and only national study on the prevalence of attorney addiction and mental health problems, a joint undertaking of the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation; creating the framework for the ABA Well-Being Pledge, an innovative campaign to improve the health and well-being of lawyers that was launched in September, 2018; partnering with American Lawyer Media to conduct the first-ever survey of AmLaw 200 firm leaders regarding their beliefs and attitudes related to addiction and mental health problems in the legal industry.

Transcript:

CHRIS NEWBOLD:

Welcome to the Path to Lawyer Well-Being Podcast, where we talk to cool people doing awesome work in the lawyer well-being space. My name is Chris Newbold and I’m joined by my cohost, Bree Buchanan.

BREE BUCHANAN:

Hi, everybody.

CHRIS:

We are again, super excited about the opportunity to have one of the pioneers in the lawyer well-being space join us today as our guest, Patrick Krill. Patrick is somebody who really has been influential in his work on the science side to the lay the foundation for what has become a vibrant movement and a discussion in the legal profession about the current state of lawyer well-being. So let me kick it to Brie to introduce Patrick and get us going on our question.

BREE:

Thanks, Chris. Yeah, I think we really are so honored to have Patrick here today. I have a little disclosure. Patrick and I work together, he’s my boss with Krill Strategies, but everything I say, none of this I’m saying to just flatter you, Patrick. All of it is absolutely true.

PATRICK KRILL:

Oh, great.

BREE:

Absolutely, but some of the words that come to my mind. Chris has already tapped on it, pioneer. A pioneer in the research around substance abuse and mental health issues in the legal profession because it was Patrick’s fabulous research that was published in 2016 that really kicked all of this off. We’re going to talk about that research a little bit and also talk about what he’s been doing since then, in regards to updating and expanding upon that research.

He’s also what I think of as a true thought leader and sometimes I tease him of being our guru around these issues in the legal profession because he spends all of his time reading, researching, talking to others. Really is, truly is a thought leader on this. He’s authored over 70 articles, including [inaudible 00:02:13], CNN, been in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and on NPR. So we really are very lucky to have Patrick today.

So Patrick, thanks for being here.

PATRICK:

Thank you, Bree, and thank you, Chris. It’s a pleasure to be with you both.

BREE:

So I’m going to start off with a question that we’re really trying to ask everybody that comes on the podcast, for us to get an idea a little bit about the person themselves. So what brought you to the lawyer well-being movement? So what in your life really drives your passion for this work?

PATRICK:

Yeah, so it’s a great question and I think to really answer that meaningfully, I have to go back to before my work in the lawyer well-being space, and to really talk a little bit about my career trajectory generally.

I was an attorney, I was someone who went to law school, and then as I was getting ready to wrap up law school, made the decision to go for a further degree to get an LOM in international law. I approached the legal profession with a lot of enthusiasm and with a lot of plans about the type of law that I wanted to practice. Then what I was met with was a reality that was very discordant with what I had expected. I’m a first generation lawyer in my family, I didn’t have a lot of experience with or exposure to what being a lawyer actually meant. So I had all these preconceptions.

Then I got into the field and while it was fine, it was pretty clear to me right off the bat that once I got out of the academic, once I got out of the classroom setting and stopped studying about law and had to do the work, it really wasn’t a good fit for me. I didn’t particularly enjoy it. The idea of billing my time in six minute increments really was, I just couldn’t do it. It was [crosstalk 00:04:11] water, in terms of my personality, but none the less, I did practice law for a number of years and I worked in a number of different roles. Started coming to the realization that this wasn’t longterm sustainable for me. It didn’t get my out of bed in the morning. Right?

BREE:

Right.

PATRICK:

A question we always ask people is, what gets you out of bed in the morning? It wasn’t being an attorney, despite my best intentions, really. I’m fascinated by the law and I still think about and read about the law all the time, but the mechanics of practicing law weren’t for me.

I also had my own experience overcoming addiction really early out of the gate. In the first couple of years of the legal profession, my practice I should say. So I had exposure to and experience with what it takes to overcome a behavioral health problem. That experience and that exposure to that world introduced me to this idea of counseling. So I knew what a mental health counselor was, I knew what an addiction counselor was.

So when it came time for me to reevaluate and think, do I want to do this longterm? I knew that there was a field that seemed a little bit more interesting to me, it seemed a little bit more aligned with my personality and intrinsically who I am. So I went back to school to become an addiction counselor. That ultimately translated into my work with lawyers specifically. I became the director a treatment program for lawyers, judges, and law students at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. So it’s a long rambling answer but I think you have to understand the bigger picture view-

BREE:

Absolutely, yeah.

PATRICK:

… how I even got into the mental health space, let alone the lawyer specific mental health space.

BREE:

Right, well thanks for sharing that. I mean there typically is a personal story that brings us to this work. I think that what you just said, Patrick, about really not having the best vocational fit once you get into it and start seeing what it’s like day to day. I hear that as a common refrain from lawyers who are really struggling. So yeah, thanks.

Listen, I want to get you to share a little bit about the lawyer study that was done, now four years ago, that you did. I think you started while you were still director of the legal professionals program at Hazelden. That has proved to be the basis for really, the lawyer well-being movement. So I’m wondering, what do you think is the most important information that came out of that study now that you can look back over the past four years?

PATRICK:

It’s hard to say. I have a hard time identifying one thing or even two things as being the most important takeaways from that study. I think the most important result, excuse me, result of that study has been its overall impact to the extent to which it raised awareness about the nature and the scope of the challenges we face. It provided much needed data to back what a lot of us who were working in the lawyer mental health space in a clinical or other capacity knew. We knew lawyers were unwell and were struggling disproportionately to other populations, but we didn’t really have good data to back up our argument. So this study provided that and it really opened the door to a much needed and overdue conversation around mental health and well-being in the legal profession. So I think it was really more the impact than any one precise piece of the study.

I will say, one of the things that surprised me the most was that it was younger lawyers who were the most depressed and struggling with or exhibiting the most signs of problem drinking. The drinking piece you can get, right?

BREE:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

PATRICK:

Think about [crosstalk 00:08:11], people drink excessively, and it doesn’t have as much of an impact on them. But we were surprised about the mental health piece as well. Simply because that wasn’t the profile who was showing up in treatment programs or going to the Lawyers Assistance Program or who was getting disbarred because of their mental health or substance use problem. So we went into that research with a preconceived notion of who the most at-risk population was.

CHRIS:

Patrick, how much of that was, do you think, driven by the expectations gap between… it’s the same type of expectations gap that you had, which was, this is what I thought the law was going to be like, this is what the law was actually like. How that’s affecting, I think, the most recent generation of graduates coming out of law school.

PATRICK:

Yeah, it’s such a great point, Chris. I think that’s a profound problem. I think you have a lot of people coming out of law school and finding themselves adrift in a profession that doesn’t potentially resonate with them. That it is more overwhelming than they had anticipated, assuming they’re able to get a job. Right?

CHRIS:

Yeah.

PATRICK:

Get a job that meets their needs and provides some opportunity, but then they get into it and they say, “Wow, this is not what I signed up for,” or, and this is, I think, I’m putting the spotlight a little bit on the law school experience. It’s not what they were prepared for. So there are these mismatched expectations and what that can result in, I think you’re right. I mean, I think what you’re getting at is, does that play into the high levels of distress among young lawyers? How could it not? I mean, how could it not? If I had done a survey 20 years ago when I was coming into the professional, I would’ve been scoring off the chart on all of those assessments.

CHRIS:

Yeah, I mean you can see a scenario where you go down a path you feel like you’re too far down that path, that it’s probably more rare for someone to make a pivot like you did to say, “This isn’t for me, I’m going to go and pursue my studies in an area that then interconnects the behavioral health side with the law side.” We know how much student debt and other factors play into the-

PATRICK:

No doubt.

CHRIS:

[crosstalk 00:10:28] of… how do I get out of this? Then that spirals into a set of conditions that just generally move toward more unhealthy-ness for that particular community.

PATRICK:

Yup, I agree. I’m sure Bree has some thoughts about that as well with her background in vocational discernment. How do we bridge that gap? How do we make some progress there, because we need to. I don’t know if it’s modifying law school curricula or just more truth in advertising around what the legal profession is. I don’t know.

BREE:

It makes me think about Larry Krieger’s research, what makes lawyers happy. The idea of even thinking about, it’s the extrinsic things, the power, the prestige, et cetera, that draws us to the practice of law but what we know now that what makes us happy are more internal factors of meaning. That’s just not made known to people who are contemplating going to law school or people that are there. It’s something you have to trip over and fall down to figure out. Yeah, yeah.

CHRIS:

Patrick, I think it’s fair to say that the lawyer well-being movement likely doesn’t get ignited without the study itself because we are ultimately an evidentiary based profession. We needed the data, I think, to ultimately launch the discussion. Talk to us about that notion of how important that was to kick start the national discussion. Obviously, followed by the report subsequent to that, but how important was to lay the foundation.

PATRICK:

I think it was incredibly important. I think you’re right, we wouldn’t be where we are with this movement had we not had that predicate of the data, and had that not been something that caught the profession’s attention.

In addition to the data and the value of that itself, it was also a multi jurisdictional study. So we had 16, 17, 18 different bar associations from around the country participating in this survey. Participating in this research, recognizing the value. So you saw some seeds of the interest being planted there where you had all these [inaudible 00:12:52] stakeholders, but you also had… this goes back to my overarching strategy when I was conceptualizing this study, you had the ABA and Hazelden Betty Ford, two large stakeholders with a lot of credibility in their respective spheres, coming together to conduct this research. I think that was an important piece of the puzzle. This wasn’t something that could just be ignored. You have all these bar associations from around the country participating, you have the ABA, you have Hazelden Betty Ford, putting their names behind this project. I think that allowed it to get the attention that it did, and to really open the door for this conversation.

Something I’d be really interested in hearing both of your perspectives on is looking back on it. I have a sense that in a way we were almost pushing on an open door. What I mean by that is, there was an appetite to have this discussion. People knew that there was a problem but it was under the surface and there wasn’t an easy way to bring this up or there weren’t a lot of pathways into this conversation, but then once you got that ball rolling, people were basically acknowledging, yeah, we’ve got issues here. Finally, can we talk about this? At least that’s my perspective looking back over the last five years.

BREE:

Yeah, and I think that societally outside of law, more and more people were talking about these issues. So law, a conservative industry, comes up last, but then you have younger people who are coming in and onboarding into the legal profession and there’s just not the stigma around these issues about depression, anxiety, or even a substance abuse problem, that there used to be. So you’re starting to get a shift, and I think once we got that data, it opened up the door which as you’re saying was already open.

Then the other thing that I found going around the country talking, inevitably, people who have been practicing law even for just a little bit, know someone who has taken his or her own life. Once that has crossed your path, it really shapes you. It’s not something that you forget about. We always want to know, well, what could’ve been done differently? So I think that this is a manifestation of that too.

PATRICK:

Yeah, and at the risk of… I don’t want to dominate the conversation but I do want to say something to both of you, share something with you that hasn’t really received a lot of discussion because it wasn’t published. With that study where we had 15,000 responses, there was the opportunity for people to submit comments at the end. There was basically like, do you have comments? We compiled all of those and I have binder of them sitting on my bookshelf. We weren’t able to publish them, the format didn’t lend itself to that but we had thousands and thousands of comments, overwhelmingly they reflected a theme of, this is a huge problem in the profession. We’re glad you’re conducting this research. Maybe that’s where I began to develop this notion that people want to have this conversation, people recognize that people around them are not well. That people around them are struggling, and they feel like they’re in a profession that’s tone deaf to it. But overwhelmingly, that’s what the comments reflected. People saying this is a big deal.

BREE:

Wow.

PATRICK:

This is a needed endeavor.

BREE:

Yeah, so I know that that research was so important but there were other questions that you wanted to ask. So could you tell us a little bit about the most current research you’re involved in?

PATRICK:

Yeah, I’m actually really excited about this. Along with a colleague at the University of Minnesota Medical School, I designed a new survey that we administered to lawyers in California and the DC bar. So we partnered with the California Lawyers Association and the DC Bar to conduct new research, bi-coastal research. I had a couple of aims for this project. One, we did want it to be a random sample, so it would meet that gold standard for research. The 2016 study, while I feel very certain that those numbers were represented of what was happening in the profession, it wasn’t a truly random sample. So it didn’t meet that gold standard for data. So I did want to have a random sample, but I also wanted to explore the why. Not just prevalence, not how many lawyers are meeting criteria for depression or a substance abuse disorder, but why. To ask questions that could get at lawyer motivation, lawyer personality. Then look at those responses in relationship to their mental health.

So we were originally supposed to launch that research project right around the time, and I mean what a year we’re all in. So right around the time when the pandemic was hitting. The survey was supposed to go out, I think, the same week that California announced stay at home orders. So obviously the California Lawyers Association said, “We need to pause,” and we agreed with that. What that gave us the opportunity to do was to revamp the survey and to modify some questions to actually measure the impact of COVID-19 and quarantines and all of that on lawyer mental health. It was ultimately disseminated, we finished data collection about a month ago and we’re analyzing the data, getting ready to write up the manuscript.

Basically what I can tell you, I can’t talk about the data in any precise way at this point prior to publication, but what I can tell you is that the problems are real, there was nothing anomalous about that 2016 study. In some respects, they appear to be getting worse. Also, the impact of COVID-19 has been material. It’s been real, I mean, people are feeling this as it relates to their mental health and their substance use. Beyond that though, we’re going to have some really interesting insights to share about the why piece. Why are lawyers so likely to experience depression, for example.

So I’m really excited about it, really grateful to the DC Bar and California Lawyers Association. They helped us get a big data set, we had really robust participation and a random sample. So it’ll be useful, useful data for the profession.

BREE:

Do you have a sense of when it might be published?

PATRICK:

Yeah, well that’s that million dollar question. Our goal is to have it submitted to a journal by the end of September. Then it’s that sort of, out of your hands. It’s journal’s own publication schedule. Best case scenario it’ll be published in December, but that could easily go into January of next year, February. I mean, just given all of the delays that everything seems to be experiencing and all the uncertainty, but we’re moving pretty expeditiously. We’re moving about as quickly as you can with a study of this size and nature.

CHRIS:

Patrick, how much do you think that the research side of well-being is important to the discussion, because we really don’t have a lot of good… I mean we have research, we have some groundbreaking studies. We had yours, we had the law student one, we have your followup here, but it still seems like there’s a lack of emphasis on the research side as we think about the well-being movement. I’d just love for your insights into, what’s the next generation of research as you think on the horizon?

PATRICK:

Yeah, I think personally, research is a very important piece of the puzzle. That’s not just because I’m involved in it, it’s because you have to understand the dimensions of the challenges that you’re trying to address. You can’t just be spit balling about what’s going on.

We’re also a profession that’s trained weigh and evaluate evidence. Lawyers are prone to scrutinize things and want to know, is that backed by data? Is that science driven? So I think if you want to persuade people that there needs to be a change you have to back up your argument, in addition to people like us being able to understand the nature of the challenges. So I think it’s vitally important.

In terms of next generation or ongoing, I think further exploration of what causes the problems, which is probably going to be further exploration of the lawyer personality, beyond really important work like Krieger and Sheldon’s work and other research that exists. We need to understand that a little bit better. I think we also really need to get at the disconnect that we started by talking about. That expectation gap or the mismatched expectations between what people think they’re getting with a career in the law, and what they end up getting because that’s got to be a big piece of the equation as to why many people find themselves, to put is charitably, less than satisfied.

CHRIS:

Yeah, and if we have a profession of folks who are less than satisfied, that doesn’t bode well to the profession generally.

PATRICK:

No, right, exactly.

CHRIS:

Let’s pivot real quickly before we take a break. I’d love to hear your perspective. Each one of us comes at this from a different angle, the well-being. Bree obviously originating from the lawyer assistance programming side. I spend a lot of time thinking about small firms and solo practitioners and preventing malpractice claims. A lot of your focus professionally has been on big law. More than anybody else, you probably have your finger on the pulse of how big law is adapting to the new emphasis on well-being. I’d just love to hear your perspectives one what you’re seeing out there. Do you think big law is paying attention, because oftentimes I think big law, if they embrace it it has a trickle down effect to the totality of the profession. So I’d love to hear your perspective on big law and the interconnectedness to well-being.

PATRICK:

Yeah, so it’s an important area of discussion. I think you’re right that often, big law does have the ability to set the pace. They’re almost like the pace card for the profession, who have an outsize influence on the profession despite the fact that they employ a minority of practicing lawyers.

I would say if you compare where we were four years ago, big law has made a lot of progress. It started with this overdue recognition and acknowledgement that this is a real problem. We have an issue that we need to get our arms around. Five years ago, there was profound and widespread institutional denial of the scope of the problem. Maybe if it wasn’t denied, it was simply a lack of awareness. You can characterize it however you want, but the reality is that these issues were not being dealt with in a deliberate way. They weren’t even really being acknowledge, despite the fact that it tends to be a pressure cooker environment. It tends to be one of the most intense professional environments out there.

Now what you have is widespread acknowledgement that these problems are real. Widespread acknowledgement that their competitors are taking steps to try and [inaudible 00:24:32] the problems or at least mitigate the problems. So there’s momentum, there’s real momentum that has developed.

All of that said, there’s a fundamental tension between the business model of big law, which again, tends to be really high expectations, a pressure cooker environment, a lot of billable requirements and other demands. There’s a tension between that model and being able to take care of yourself the way that you might want to, and having any sense of balance in your life. So I think to try and resolve that tension is going to continue to necessitate incremental efforts that are sustained over time. It’s not going to be an overnight fix. It’s going to take a long time.

That said, many firms are making a good faith effort. They’re trying, they’re trying to bridge that gap incrementally where they can. One of the problems with incremental progress, especially in an environment where so many people are not satisfied, is that it takes patience. So you have some people in those environments or some people, external to big law, commenting on big law saying, “This is all window dressing. All of these changes that they’re making don’t really get at the heart of the matter.” But the reality is you have to start somewhere and you have to start taking steps. As long as those steps, like I said, are sustained and they continue to move in the right direction over time. I think the model can be adjusted to the point where people experience greater levels of personal well-being. To some degree, that’s already happening.

BREE:

Yeah, and now that all three of us are being coauthors of a task force report, we can remember all the thought that went into how we make a good argument to the legal profession for this culture change. There was the financial, it’s good for business. It relates to our ethical obligations. Then the humanitarian, it’s the right thing to do. Which of those three do you think are motivating the firms and the people in the firms that you’re dealing with? Are those [arguments 00:27:01] resonating?

PATRICK:

Honestly, maybe I just have the good fortune of working with some really amazing firms, but my experience has been, all three resonate. I mean, you tend to have really good people leading these organizations. It’s not like they’re unfeeling individuals but they have to operate within the bounds of their business model. All three points resonate.

The one that is probably driving the progress the most is the financial but it’s not necessarily financial the way I think that we were contemplating it in the task force where good mental health translates into less expenditure and better performance and all of that. It’s financial in the sense of wanting to present a firm culture that attracts and retains the best lawyers. So it’s almost a hybrid rationale, it’s certain that if you boil that down, firms want to attract and retain the best talent so that they ultimately perform better financially. But it’s not the precise calculation of how many specific dollars they’re going to save by having fewer depressed lawyers. If that makes sense?

BREE:

Yeah, you bet.

PATRICK:

Does that make sense the way I’m explaining that?

BREE:

Yeah, and one thing that I hear that really resonates when I speak is the issue around the recruitment and retention. That’s a big deal, and getting back to talking about those younger lawyers that we were talking about at the very beginning. They expect that they’re going to work for somebody who has an interest in them personally, that cares about them as a human being. That’s just what’s out there and what they’re dealing with, with the new folks. So yeah.

CHRIS:

Yeah, certainly feels like the talent acquisition side where these firms are competing for the best and brightest talent coming out of the law schools, that many of those students are coming in with a different mindset from a work life balance. That has the potential to be a real game changer, it probably has you more optimistic thinking ahead to the future, in terms of the generational change that will ultimately evolve in big law.

PATRICK:

Yeah, absolutely. I do think that the younger generation of attorneys, assuming that their priorities aren’t co-opted by the machines, if you will. Assuming that they maintain that level of desire to have a different work life experience. As long as they continue to prioritize well-being, then yes, I think that they can be a driver of real transformational change and sustained change in the profession. As long as they don’t get co-opted or swept away by the current that exists. I don’t see any evidence that they will, I’m just offering that as one potential caveat. Does the prevailing system ultimately prevail?

CHRIS:

Yeah, yeah. Well hey, let’s take a quick break. Patrick, this has been a fascinating conversation. I love the again, your thought leadership in this space. Your experience, your ability to see the macro trends, I think is really critical as we think about the well-being movement on the horizon. Let’s take a quick break and we’ll come back.

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BREE:

So, Patrick, continuing along the line of what is happening in big law around this whole lawyer well-being movement. There is a pledge, it’s the well-being pledge for legal employers. That is being conducted by the American Bar Association, specifically, the Commission on Lawyers Assistance Programs, but you really were the instigator of that. So can you talk a little bit about why you thought that was so important and how that project’s going right now?

PATRICK:

Yeah, so I’d be happy to. I’m really, really gratified with how the pledge has turned out, especially given how it began. What I mean by that is, I first proposed the idea of a pledge campaign to ask legal lawyers to publicly state a commitment to various principles around well-being, back in, I want to say 2015 prior to the study. At the time I proposed that and had this idea, the profession was in a different place. This conversation wasn’t really happening or resonating in the profession. So that idea gained no traction.

So when I had the opportunity to present it again in 2018 under the [inaudible 00:32:24] of the ABA, Working Group to Advance Lawyer Well-Being, the group liked it and we ran with it and we launched it in September of 2018. Starting with 12 law firm, and those were basically firms that I or others in the working group had a relationship with. We approached them and said, “Would you like to put your name behind this campaign and help us generate momentum and interest to hopefully change the culture of the profession?” So we started with 12, I would say very courageous law firms. We’re now up to close to 200 organizations.

BREE:

That’s right.

PATRICK:

[crosstalk 00:33:00] pledge, which is really, really remarkable. We still have a lot of room to grow and a lot of stakeholders that we want to get on board, but it has already in my view, amounted to a vehicle for cultural change. That was the idea from the beginning. We need a vehicle for cultural change, something that provides concrete, tangible guidance about steps that organizations can take to reduce the impact and prevalence of mental health and substance abuse problems. I really couldn’t be more pleased by how well it’s going.

I’ll say it’s simply signing a pledge and saying we’re going to do X, Y, and Z, in it of itself is meaningless unless the organization follows through. It’s not hard to imagine why some organizations may want to sign on just for PR reasons or peer pressure, whatever. But we just finished evaluating, we circulated commitment forms, recommitment forms, after organizations had been signatories for a year. We’re just finishing evaluating all of those responses and the overwhelming majority of signatories are really taking meaningful steps. I mean-

BREE:

That’s great news.

PATRICK:

[crosstalk 00:34:16] they’re trying to live up to that commitment that they made.

BREE:

Yeah, wonderful. Can you talk just for a minute, because my thought is maybe some people who are listening who may be interested in getting involved in that pledge. So it’s for legal employers, it’s not just big law. Right?

PATRICK:

Yes, exactly. So we are-

BREE:

Bar associations?

PATRICK:

We have an overwhelming number of big law firms who have signed on but Bar associations, law school, corporate legal departments, sector legal employers. A large public defender’s office, a state attorney’s office, the Department of Justice. If anyone from the DOJ is listening, we want you to take the pledge. There are lots of other stakeholders that it would be great to get on board because this is about changing the culture of the profession, not the culture of big law firms.

BREE:

Right, right. So also, Chris, what do you think about the pledge as being someone who works in day to day in risk management for law firms? Do you see it as a helpful tool?

CHRIS:

Yeah, I think again, what we’re trying to do is get the discussion going amongst partners in any size of a firm or in any type of a legal employer environment. So the more that those conversations are being had, I think that the more that you’re seeing people see… I know from our perspective, we believe that happier, healthier lawyers ultimately lead to fewer claims. So the pledge, I think, has been really a catalyst for… What I would love to see is again, 200 signatories to become 1,000 signatories, to become 2,000 signatories because I think we continue to want to be able to see this filtered down if big law is the pace setter, how do we continue to see small law, solo practitioners, and others come into it? Then also, a geographic representation.

I know one of my aspirations is to have pledge signers in every state in the country. So it is really a catalyst for the national discussion, the national movement, and people saying, “I’m in.” We need people to say, “I’m in,” because I think that that is going to be critical to the success of our ultimate goal, which is the culture shift.

PATRICK:

I think that’s right. When we get to that point of having a really wide base of buy in and a wide base of participation, in for example, the pledge. I mean that’s when you start to see this idea of well-being really associated with the idea of being a lawyer. It becomes part of the notion of what a career in the legal profession involves. Part of that role, ideally one day be a focus on taking care of yourself.

CHRIS:

Yeah, let’s shift here quickly. I know again, we’d be remiss to not talk for a few minutes with you, Patrick, about the impacts of the pandemic. You referenced it a little bit in some of your current research. Just hear your thoughts on the effect of the pandemic on lawyers, to the legal community, substance abuse, mental health. We’re seeing it amongst our [inaudible 00:37:35]. It’s a tough time out there.

BREE:

Yeah.

PATRICK:

Yeah, it’s an extraordinarily tough time, I think for anyone in society. Different people have been experiencing the events of 2020 differently. That’s one thing that I think is important to recognize, that although we tend to say we’re all in this together. That’s true, but also really not true. We’re in the same storm but we’re not all on the same boat. That’s really evident in some work environments, where you might have some people who this has amounted to a significant inconvenience for them. Maybe they’re riding it out from their beach house or whatever. Then you have other people who are in a 700 square foot apartment and they’ve been traumatized by what’s been going on over the course of the last four to five months. So that experience has not been universal.

All of that said, I’m hearing on a daily basis at this point from people, from organization, from firms who are saying, “Our people are struggling.” I’ve had four or five emails, today’s a Wednesday, I’ve had four or five emails sent Monday on that point saying, “Can we talk? We need to talk to you about what’s going on. Some of the trends we’re seeing.” So it’s real and it’s important to recognize, going back to the data that we were all discussing earlier, the legal profession was starting off on shakier ground, as it relates to our mental health and substance abuse risk. We already had higher levels of those problems. Now the pandemic has come along, and not only the pandemic. The stay at home orders, the economic uncertainty, the racial tension that’s been [inaudible 00:39:25] the country. I mean, there’s a lot happening in 2020 that has really pushed some people to the brink or in some cases unfortunately, over the brink.

BREE:

What are you telling these folks when they call? To the extent that you can share that. What is some general advice?

PATRICK:

Well, almost always these conversations involve letting them know that what they’re experiencing internally in their organization is not anomalous. So helping them understand the dimensions of what’s happening throughout the country and around the world. Normalizing that experience, but also I think it’s really important for organizations to be mindful of how they’re communicating with their people around this and how they’re trying to make accommodations and adjustments to culture and expectations where possible. If I were to call them several months ago, I think back in March, about this phenomenon essentially known as emotional dissonance, which is the disparity between how we feel inside and how we feel we have to present in order to conform with workplace expectations or other expectations of us. Right now for many people, that level of emotional dissonance is quite high because they are a mess inside and they’re really struggling to hold it together or they’re completely burnt out and they’re completely frazzled, but they’re a lawyer. There’s a very real set expectation for how they present themselves and how they comport themselves.

So I think it’s important for organizations and employers to recognize that and to try to move the needle a little bit and show some flexibility around those expectations because the higher that level of emotional dissonance, the greater the risk of burn out, unwanted turnover, all sorts of problematic outcomes.

CHRIS:

Patrick, let’s spend our last couple minutes talking about just your motivation. You are somebody again, first generation lawyer. In many respects, you’re both nudging and blowing us, opening up new doors in a national discussion. I’ve called you at times the fire alarm puller, which means that you’re shining the light on some of the problems of our profession, which I know that it’s motivated by a desire to drive it in the right direction and to return it to a level of professional satisfaction that we can all be proud of and excited about.

I’m just curious on, what’s it like to be in your role, to be talking to lawyers about the challenges and also I know that you are amongst, in our community, one of the primary solution drivers. You’re always thinking about, how do we move it forward? So as we think about this culture shift, I’d just love your perspective on both raising the alarm on one side, but yet putting the fire out and looking for a bluer sky, a better horizon in the future.

PATRICK:

Yeah, well they’re both, I think, equally important. I think the fire alarm has been raised at this point. That’s a great question, Chris. Thank you, I should say, for asking that because I think it really gets it to equally important things. We needed to raise awareness, we needed to get this conversation going. I think on an ongoing basis we will need to keep that level of buy-in, and that level of awareness raised. So that’s one of the reasons why I’m conducting new research. We can’t rely on research from 2016 in perpetuity. We need current data to continually drive the conversation. But beyond that, it’s only so much utility if you raise awareness, and then don’t have any next steps outlined. Talk about, how do we get to a better place? It’s a problem and it’s a solution. Now we’ve identified the problem and we all have to be focused on developing good solutions.

I love problem solving, not in the math sense, I’m terrible at math but just in a conceptual sense. It’s always what I’ve enjoyed is trying to figure out problems and solutions. So that piece does really motivate me and I enjoy that. I like wrestling with concepts and theories and testing different propositions and figuring out what might work. So that’s a really important piece.

I’ve got to say, I appreciate you saying that I’m driving some efforts here, but this is a team effort. Both of you and all of our other wonderful colleagues on the national task force and other people around the profession who are contributing to this cause, we’re all rowing in the same direction and contributing where we can to turn the ship. I don’t know how many different lame metaphors I’ve used but it’s certainly not just me. We really are doing this together. But I’m grateful, I experience a lot of gratitude for the opportunities that I’ve had in my life to allow me to be doing this work. Most days it’s good to get out of bed and it’s good to get up and do what I have to do that day.

CHRIS:

If the goal is the culture shift, I am curious on what your greatest fear is as we look ahead.

PATRICK:  [inaudible 00:45:05] you stumped me, because I don’t know what this says about my personality but I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that. I don’t know that I have one.

BREE:

I know that with the task force when we first started our greatest fear is that nobody would pay attention or we’d write this report and it would sit on a bookshelf.

CHRIS:

Yeah.

BREE:

So that’s not happening.

CHRIS:

That’s not happening. My greatest fear is always, I’ve been around the legal profession for 20 years now and you see issues rise to the level of national discussion, and oftentimes then peter out. I think we collectively, I think we’re both trying to build the infrastructure and the sustainability of the movement and the architecture of the movement so that it continues to be front and center, a front burner issue. I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job thus far but boy, once we let our guard down we could lose the momentum and we can lose momentum.

PATRICK:

Well, I couldn’t agree more fully. I have no intention of letting that happen for my part. That would be fully antithetical to who I am at my core. So I’m going to keep pushing this as long and as hard as I can. Knowing that there are so many other people invested in this process, I think will probably overcome some of the what may have been long odds at the beginning, about whether you can really achieve a cultural change in the legal profession. I think we’re getting there and we will ultimately get there.

BREE:

Patrick, you truly are making the profession a better one. So, thank you.

PATRICK:

Well, that’s kind, Bree. Thank you.

CHRIS:

Yeah, it’s been awesome. Again, we talk about awesome people doing great things. You are definitely in that camp and Patrick, we thank you so much for being on the podcast and being one of our first guests.

PATRICK:

That was great. Really good to chat with you both. I hope this podcast is just a tremendous success, as I’m sure it will be.

CHRIS:

Awesome. Well, everyone, be well out there. We’ll be coming back with a podcast in a couple weeks. Thank you.

BREE:

Thanks, bye, everybody.

 

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