Law Firms Must Help Address Attorney Mental Health

Attorneys Experience Prevalent Mental Health Problems

It is not uncommon for employees to experience stress, fatigue, and frustration when having to balance personal, family, and work obligations, not to mention the societal ideal to be “busy” all of the time. While many individuals are able to use positive coping strategies, such as collaborating with coworkers, maintaining a healthy diet, performing regular exercise, stress reduction techniques, and get quality sleep, the legal profession in particular has prevalent rates of widespread mental health issues. These problems have been exacerbated over the past few decades with the advent of faster communication (email and text) and electronic court filing. The idea of being “available” for clients 24/7/365 in the legal profession, excessive use of emails and texts for which clients and opposing attorneys expect immediate responses, as well as electronic filings day, night, and weekends, has many legal professionals frazzled. Attorneys are unable to enjoy “down time”, unable to truly enjoy vacations and other private time for themselves and their families. Thus, the mental health of legal professionals is in jeopardy.

Possible Causes and Nationwide Key Study

Recent research conducted by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs revealed shocking results from a survey of over 12,000 licensed and employed attorneys assessing their behavioral habits and mental health.

Of the survey participants:

  • 21% qualify as problem drinkers (One in three practicing attorneys are problem drinkers.).
  • 28% struggle with some level of depression.
  • 19% have symptoms of anxiety.

Here in Florida, a 2015 Florida Bar membership survey found that 33% of Florida lawyers reported high stress as a major problem, and 32% reported that balancing work and family was a significant challenge.

Attorneys are stigmatized as “weak” or insecure if they complain when under pressure, thus they hide much of their stress and anxiety. Correspondingly, the legal profession has for a longtime neglected to pay attention to the health and well-being of attorneys. Attorneys are left vulnerable to experiencing behavioral and mental health problems. However, the data from the above-cited survey has stimulated a call-to-action for the legal profession to make changes to improve the health of individuals who practice law.

Haber Law’s Commitment to Excellence

The Florida Bar has instituted a widespread initiative to improve this crisis, including a Special Committee focused on bringing this serious mental health issue into the spotlight and making resources available, such as providing wellness professionals for all Florida Bar members at an affordable cost. In fact, past Florida Bar President Michael J. Higer made the mental health of attorneys the focal point of his term as President.

Haber Law’s commitment to excellence to our clients and community includes a commitment to taking significant steps to reduce attorney stress and increase the corporate well-being of our attorneys and employees. We want to destigmatize mental illness in the legal community and improve the health and wellness of the legal workforce. Our initiatives are similar to those of the Special Committee. We have retained corporate wellness consultants and established a corporate wellness program for all employees. Haber Law has expanded the resources available to all employees by, for instance, making a licensed massage therapist available to employees weekly, and by having a policy of allowing attorneys to work from home to reduce stressful commutes and give them more time to be with their families.

In alignment with our efforts, we are moving to a new location in Wynwood. Our new offices will incorporate several health and wellness features for our team, such as more open, communal workspaces, a gym, and more. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to learn more about our new, modern offices in Wynwood and our health and wellness initiatives in the coming months. 

 

David-Haber-2017-197x300About the Author 

David B. Haber is a partner with Haber Law who is known throughout the South Florida community as an aggressive litigator and fierce advocate for his clients. His extensive expertise in complex commercial litigation, combined with his practical business sense, enables him to adapt his representation and strategy to each client’s case and prevail. He practices in the areas of construction law and construction and design defect litigation; condominium and homeowners association law; complex business and commercial litigation in state and federal court; and real estate litigation.