In 2017, multiple nationwide studies on the well-being of lawyers and law students culminated in the release of a report from the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being. The Task Force Report highlighted distressing data indicating that lawyers suffer from depression, anxiety, and substance use at rates higher than the general population. It concluded that the legal profession was at a tipping point and presented recommendations and action plans for building a more positive future.
Now, fast forward to 2021, a year after the COVID-19 pandemic began, shaking up every industry and impacting individuals across the globe. It will come as no surprise that five years after the seminal 2017 studies, the data on well-being in the legal profession has not changed much. In fact, a recent peer-reviewed study as well as an ABA study found that women lawyers are considering an exodus from the legal profession due to the pandemic as well due to mental health problems, burnout, or stress. Other recent studies have found higher rates of suicide and suicide ideation among attorneys; higher stress among attorneys of color on account of their race and ethnicity; and that stigma continues to pervade the profession with large numbers of lawyers that say they cannot discuss well-being issues with their employer without worrying it will damage their career or livelihoods.
Despite this data, it is not all doom and gloom for the legal profession. The increased awareness of well-being in the legal profession has paved the way for rethinking how to make positive organizational and culture changes, and how to reduce stigma around seeking help and self-care.
Filippa M. Anzalone, Heidi Alexander, and Laurie Capello. "The Road to Attorney Well-Being: Past, Present, and Future." Boston Bar Journal 65, no.4 (2021): 22-25.