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State Lawyers’ Group Looks To Improve Attorney Well-Being

Study Shows Above-Average Rates Of Excessive Drinking And Depression, Including In Wisconsin

scales of justice
Tim Evanson (CC-BY-SA)

A national task force is out with recommendations to improve the well-being of attorneys. The suggestions come in the wake of a study finding high rates of anxiety and problem drinking among attorneys in 19 states, including Wisconsin.

According to the state bar association, it’s eager to work with others in the legal system to find out which of the task force recommendations can be implemented to help lawyers that are depressed or drink too much.

“Judges have a role, law firms have a role, as well as lawyer assistance programs, etc.,” said Mary Spranger, who manages the Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program for the state bar. “I don’t think we’ve seen that kind of systems approach where the entire profession is asked to take a look at the ways we support lawyer well-being. And that to me is the most important message, that there’s a role for all of us.”

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The recommendations from the National Taskforce on Lawyer Well-Being also seek to end the stigma of seeking help and take small steps which could improve attorneys mental and physical health. For example, that could include de-emphasizing alcohol at bar association social events and allowing lawyers to earn continuing legal education credits for well-being workshops.

The American Bar Association created the task force after the troubling report was released last year. That study by the American Bar Association and Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation found between 21-36 percent of attorneys surveyed qualified as problem drinkers and that many had anxiety, stress or depression. Young lawyers were most affected.

The task force report noted that the profession has always been demanding and the “budding impairment of many of the future generation of lawyers should be alarming to everyone.”