“When it comes to attorney wellness, the legal profession has been slow to come to terms with its own self-destructive tendencies—including some, like overworking, that lawyers have long tolerated or even celebrated.
But major forces in the profession are now working to reform aspects of the industry that experts blame for undermining lawyers’ mental health.
Faced with growing evidence that lawyers are highly vulnerable to depression and substance abuse, the American Bar Association created a working group to advance well-being in the legal profession, and last year it issued a call for legal employers to adopt a seven-point framework to improve mental health in the law. Over 100 have pledged to do so.
Major U.S. and global law firms, meanwhile, are increasingly promoting their own initiatives to support attorney health, and many have created staff positions focused on lawyer wellness.
“There’s a lot happening and a lot of it is really wonderful,” said Eileen Travis, director of the New York City Bar Association’s Lawyer Assistance Program. She noted the wellness programs that some firms have implemented and that several have hired in-house psychologists.
Still, lawyers and health professionals said, meaningful change will require industry leaders to do more than sign pledges and make superficial changes, and to question the underlying culture of the profession.”
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