- Most attorneys will face serious personal problems during their careers that could affect their professional and personal lives.
- Most bar associations have assistance programs to help attorneys.
Several studies have shown that 70 percent of attorneys will have problems with substance abuse, depression, feelings of inadequacy, or anxiety during their careers.
Most state bar associations have Lawyer Assistance Programs (LAPs) that can help attorneys with those issues in addition to gambling addiction, grief, divorce, and other problems. Studies have shown that most lawyers will deal with an issue for six years before asking for help, and some don’t ask for help and turn to suicide.
This list prepared by the Association of Corporate Counsel is based on the ACC 2021 Annual Meeting presentation, “Prioritizing Well-Being by Partnering with Your State Lawyer Assistance Program,” by Jim Patton, Vice President and Chief Legal Officer for Advancement, Broadhurst Group, Terry Harrell, Executive Director, Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program, Scott Catlett, Chief Legal & Franchise Officer and Corporate Secretary, Yum Brands, Inc., and Claudette Patton.
Reasons attorneys fail to seek help:
- Attorneys believe there is a stigma to asking for help.
- Attorneys don’t want to appear as if they can’t handle the pressure of their jobs.
- Attorneys tend to ignore problems and hope they will go away.
Tips if you feel like a colleague may need help:
- Share your concern with that colleague and ask a question to see if they need help.
- Many LAPs include the Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) procedure for identifying the signs of a person considering suicide. The procedure of questioning a person about how they are handling problems, persuading them to seek help, and referring the person for help, is aimed at suicide prevention.
Tips for law department leaders:
- Set the tone at the top to encourage people to seek help if they need it.
- Many organizations have an employee assistance program. Ensure your organization has a policy so people know what will happen after they ask for help.
- Acknowledge when times are rough. Discuss with your team to remove the stigma often associated with seeking help.
- Consider bringing in LAP volunteers to share their story with your team.
Read “Feeling Overwhelmed? Lawyer Assistance Programs Can Help,” by James Patton, ACC Docket, August 9, 2021.
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