Wednesday, September 6, 2017
National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations For Positive Change:
To be a good lawyer, one has to be a healthy lawyer. Sadly, our profession is falling short when it comes to well-being. The two studies referenced above reveal that too many lawyers and law students experience chronic stress and high rates of depression and substance use. These findings are incompatible with a sustainable legal profession, and they raise troubling implications for many lawyers’ basic competence. This research suggests that the current state of lawyers’ health cannot support a profession dedicated to client service and dependent on the public trust.
The legal profession is already struggling. Our profession confronts a dwindling market share as the public turns to more accessible, affordable alternative legal service providers. We are at a crossroads. To maintain public confidence in the profession, to meet the need for innovation in how we deliver legal services, to increase access to justice, and to reduce the level of toxicity that has allowed mental health and substance use disorders to fester among our colleagues, we have to act now. Change will require a wide-eyed and candid assessment of our members’ state of being, accompanied by courageous commitment to reenvisioning what it means to live the life of a lawyer.
This report’s recommendations focus on five central themes: (1) identifying stakeholders and the role each of us can play in reducing the level of toxicity in our profession, (2) eliminating the stigma associated with helpseeking 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 members of this Task Force make the following recommendations after extended deliberation. We recognize this number of recommendations may seem overwhelming at first. Thus we also provide proposed state action plans with simple checklists. These help each stakeholder inventory their current system and explore the recommendations relevant to their group. We invite you to read this report, which sets forth the basis for why the legal profession is at a tipping point, and we present these recommendations and action plans for building a more positive future. We call on you to take action and hear our clarion call. The time is now to use your experience, status, and leadership to construct a profession built on greater well-being, increased competence, and greater public trust.