The Mental Health Toll of the Legal Industry

As a part of a year-long investigation into mental health issues in the legal industry, has written a three-part series on their findings. The series seeks to destigmatize the discussion around mental health, stress and addiction struggles in the legal profession, and highlight ways to create individual and communal change.

Because of its rigorous academic requirements and culture of success, the legal profession often attracts driven, highly motivated individuals. Unfortunately, many of the habits associated with this culture of success, as dedicated young lawyers are rewarded for working around the clock and wear exhaustion like a badge of honor, are also associated with mental health issues.

According to the article, this 24/7 on-call dynamic, paired with the very real-life negative impact of failure for clients, causes many attorneys to put their clients’ well-being above their own, and creates significant risk factors for depression and anxiety.

Taken to the extreme, these universal pressures create the perfect storm for a population of tired, lonely and stressed attorneys who, without an outlet for stress management, reach for less-than-healthy coping mechanisms.

The first installment of the three articles focuses on one straightforward solution to the problem: sleep, minus the smartphone.

Working late nights and early mornings while remaining available to clients all the time creates an unsustainable cycle of restless forward momentum, burn-out almost guaranteed. Lack of sleep can significantly hinder an individual’s ability to think clearly and regulate emotion, two qualities that are critical to success as an attorney.

The article also cites the race to increase billable hours as yet another culprit in attorney sleep deprivation. As attorneys feel obligated to stay plugged-in, their stress levels rise, making it harder for them to sleep, which makes them more susceptible to anxiety and depression, which hinders their performance at work, which creates more stress, and the cycle continues.

Finally, smartphones, laptops and remote access networks set the stage for addiction to email and all that comes with it. The result is too little opportunity for the brain and body to reset and recharge. The article suggests that helping attorneys find ways to disconnect, send calls to voicemail and leave emails unread, could be the answer. With a clearer mind and better sleep, they are actually likely to be more productive in a shorter period of time, allowing them more time to rest, leading to greater productivity and starting a healthier habit cycle that sounds like a win-win for all parties.

With this series, is engaging in an important conversation around attorney mental health and the vital changes necessary for future success. Read the full article here.