TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Lawyer Is America's Loneliest Profession

Harvard Business Review LogoHarvard Business Review, America’s Loneliest Workers:

For our survey of 1,624 full-time employees, all participants in a longitudinal study of 4,000 American workers, our goals were two-fold: First, to identify those employees most at risk for feeling lonely at work; and second, to identify key drivers that maximize the benefits of increased social cohesion among employees. Participants provided details on the degrees of loneliness and social support they experienced on a daily basis, both in and out of the workplace.

Our analysis found distinct groups at both ends of the loneliness spectrum: the who’s who of loneliness, so to speak, as well as their more fortunate counterparts, the “unlonely.” Our data also yielded concrete insights for ways to tackle workplace loneliness that end up helping both your employees — and your company’s bottom line. ...

In a breakdown of loneliness and social support rates by profession, legal practice was the loneliest kind of work, followed by engineering and science. This is perhaps not surprising, given the known high prevalence of depression among lawyers. At the other end of the spectrum were occupations involving high degrees of social interaction: social work, marketing, and sales. ...

The solitude of the ivory tower seems to be a real phenomenon, as well. Graduate degree holders in our sample reported higher levels of loneliness and less workplace support than respondents who had only completed undergraduate or high school degrees. Professional degrees (law and medical degrees) were the loneliest by far, scoring 25% lonelier than bachelor’s degrees, and 20% lonelier than PhDs. ...

The portrait of loneliness that emerged from this study is sobering. America’s loneliest workers are single and childless. They are well educated, with doctors and lawyers feeling loneliest of all. They are more likely to work for the government. Most personally, America’s loneliest workers are non-heterosexual, and non-religious. These are the employees at greatest risk in this epidemic.

Washington Post, American Workers Are Already Lonely. Here Come the Robots.:

Sixty-one percent of the lawyers in her sample ranked “above average” on a loneliness scale from the University of California at Los Angeles. Other particularly lonely groups were engineers (57 percent), followed by research scientists (55 percent), workers in food preparation and serving (51 percent), and those in education and library services (45 percent). ...

Daniel Lukasik, a lawyer in Buffalo and creator of the Web community Lawyers With Depression, said he started a weekly support group for attorneys 10 years ago after realizing he and his colleagues routinely battled the grip of isolation. When he started his career in the 1980s, lawyers would go to libraries to do research and banter with others in the field. Now he can pull up a case on his smartphone. “What that translates to is: You’re working all the time,” Lukasik said. “You get to the point where you’re too exhausted to socialize.”

Combine long hours with an adversarial culture, and the result can be fierce loneliness, along with deteriorating mental health. (A 2016 study from the American Bar Association found 28 percent of attorneys reported struggling with depression, compared with 6.7 percent of the broader population.)

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