21-36% qualify as problem drinkers. Higher for men; under 30; private practice and solo practitioners.
28% report mild or higher depression symptoms. Highest for men and solo practitioners.
23% report mild or higher stress symptoms. Highest for women and solo practitioners.
19% report mild or higher anxiety symptoms. Highest for women and solo practitioners.
Ranked #8 in a study of suicide by occupation. Rate is 1.33 times the national norm.
Being a lawyer is an immense privilege. Law degrees provide opportunities to contribute to the vitality of our government, business sector, community safety, and individual lives. Ideally, lawyers help others navigate the law to enable them to build the world they want to live in.
As John Williams Davis, an American politician and lawyer, said, “True, we [lawyers] build no bridges. We raise no towers…. [But] we take up other [people’s] burdens and by our efforts we make possible” a peaceful life in a peaceful state.
To serve these crucial functions, many lawyers work very hard and take on hefty responsibilities that often have major consequences for clients.
The demands that flow from this privilege can mount and threaten our well-being. When we ignore signs of distress, the quality of our work and lives can plummet. For too many lawyers, this is what already has occurred. A 2016 study of nearly 13,000 currently practicing lawyers found that between 21 and 36 percent qualify as problem drinkers, approximately 28 percent experienced some level of depressive symptoms, and 18 percent experienced elevated anxiety. There also is evidence of suicide, work addiction, sleep deprivation, job dissatisfaction, a “diversity crisis” at the top of firms, work-life conflict, incivility, a narrowing of values so that profit predominates, and chronic loneliness.
Legal practitioners are happiest and healthiest when they learn to adopt healthy work habits and lifestyle choices. Achieving the ideal state of well-being is complex with many parts.
Research reflects that, much more than individual employee traits and qualities, situational factors like workload, a sense of control and autonomy, adequate rewards, a sense of community, fairness, and alignment of values with our organizations influence whether people experience burnout or work engagement. As one leading burnout scholar put it, “burnout is more of a social phenomenon than an individual one.”
Leaders in the medical profession’s effort to combat wide-spread physical burnout agree, saying: “Although burnout is a system issue, most institutions operate under the erroneous framework that burnout and professional satisfaction are solely the responsibility of the individual.”
This means that, if legal practitioner truly desires to improve wellbeing, they can’t focus only on individual strategies like making lawyers more resilient to stress; it is equally important (if not more so) to focus on systemically improving the professional cultures to prevent problems from developing to begin with.
Our Introductory and Masterclass Courses create a starting point if you’re just beginning this journey and expert opinion to true healing. Inside our courses, you’ll receive:
A Private program may be best for you if you’d like customized, one-on-one support.