Are You Taking Care of Yourself? Not According to the President of the American Bar Association.

One of the first things I learned when studying to become a therapist was the need to take care of myself. If I don’t do that, I can’t take care of anyone else. This was brought home to me a few weeks ago when I was speaking with my accountability partner. She’s a lawyer and we speak almost every week about our goals and if we’re accomplishing them. She told me that the week before she had been up from Tuesday evening until Friday evening working on her cases.

That brought to mind an article that I read in the Counselor, a magazine for addiction and behavioral health professionals. It was written by Bob Carlson, a lawyer in Butte, Montana, and President of the American Bar Association. The title of his article is Passing the Bar: Mobilizing Lawyers to Create a Healthier Profession. Mr. Carlson emphasizes several points:

1. Lawyers learn stress early. It’s part of the legal profession’s culture.

2. Studies have shown that lawyers and law students suffer from anxiety, depression and substance abuse disorders at much higher rates than other professionals or the general public.

3. These issues have an impact not only on lawyers and their families. They also can have severe consequences for clients.

In 2016, the Bar Association joined with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation to study the extent of the problem and determine what actions the Bar could take. They found that these problems started early for many attorneys–often in the first decade of practice. They came up with a number of recommendations:

1. De-emphasize the use of alcohol at events

2. Firms adopt policies for dealing confidentially with lawyer impairment.

3. Judges adopt policies for helping impaired colleagues on the bench.

4.There are several more proposed recommendations dealing with how legal regulators and liability carriers can help.

The ABA also formed a Presidential Working Group to assist legal employers who don’t know where to start with helping. The ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs issued a report that offers practical guidance to improve well-being. Finally, the ABA has started a campaign asking legal employers to sign a pledge to improve lawyer well-being.

I hope that you found this interesting and informative. It seems to me that these goals fit in perfectly with the aims of the Attorney Action Club. Of course, there’s more to the article. If you’d like to have a copy or would like to know more, please contact me. I’m an approved therapist for the Lawyer Assistance Program and very much appreciate all of the work that you do.

Published in AAC, Work-life Balance