To Be a Good Lawyer, One Has to Be a Healthy Lawyer, New Report Finds

It is common knowledge that many lawyers and law students struggle with high stress as well as high rates of depression and substance abuse. Now, the American Bar Association’s National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being is suggesting that these characteristics interfere with the legal profession's dedication to serving clients and dependence on the public’s trust.

The task force, formed to promote nationwide awareness, recognition and treatment, outlines a number of recommendations in its report, titled The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change, and groups them under five themes:

  1. Identifying stakeholders and the role everyone can play in reducing toxicity;
  2. Eliminating the stigma associated with help-seeking behaviors;
  3. Emphasizing that well-being is an indispensable part of a lawyer’s duty of competence;
  4. Educating lawyers, judges, and law students on lawyer well-being issues; and
  5. Taking small, incremental steps to change how law is practiced and how lawyers are regulated to instill greater well-being in the profession.

The recommendations are accompanied by proposed state action plans and checklists that can help individual stakeholders assess their situations and review pertinent recommendations.

The report also proposes three main reasons to take action on the issue of lawyer well-being. First, it contends that firms, corporations, and other organizations employing lawyers will benefit from their employees’ good health. In addition, it argues that the state of a lawyer's well-being is directly tied to their competence, which is regulated by ethical and professional conduct rules. Finally, the report proposes that addressing lawyer well-being issues is, from a humanitarian perspective, "the right thing to do."

The full report, including the proposed state action plans and accompanying checklists, can be found here.

Heather Buchanan is a second-year law student at the University of Colorado Law School and contributes to IAALS Online. Please direct inquiries about this post to iaals@du.edu.