ABA calls on firms to pledge to tackle lawyer mental-health and substance-use issues.
Law firms are joining forces by signing a seven-point pledge developed by an American Bar Association (ABA) working group to target substance-use disorders and mental-health issues among lawyers.
The ABA working group to advance well-being in the legal profession developed the pledge, asking legal employers to take specific steps to achieve the goals of raising awareness and improving lawyer well-being. The working group was formed in September 2017, a year after release of a survey that found the levels of problem drinking and mental health issues in the legal profession appeared to be higher than indicated by previous studies. Nearly 21 percent of licensed and employed lawyers and judges who responded to the survey reported problematic alcohol use. Twenty-eight percent said they experienced depression, 19 percent experienced anxiety and 23 percent experienced stress. The survey was conducted by the ABA commission on lawyer assistance programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. Based on the survey results and a list of recommendations by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, the working group recently released the well-being toolkit for lawyers and legal employers. The toolkit is available free of charge and best viewed with Google Chrome or Internet Explorer.
Take the pledge
The group also hopes to introduce a resolution at the ABA midyear meeting in January that would propose a model policy for legal employers to adopt if they suspect one of their employees is impaired by substance use or a mental-health issue. ABA President Bob Carlson said in a statement that he supports the working group’s effort to improve the health of lawyers. Mr Carlson said, ‘Many lawyers have struggled with alcohol, other substance-use or mental health disorders, and many more of us have watched friends wrestle with them,’ adding ‘this pledge campaign will give these issues the attention they deserve by raising awareness throughout the profession and making help available to lawyers in need. I hope all law firms consider taking the pledge.’ Law firms that have signed the pledge include: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; Corette Black Carlson & Mickelson; Duane Morris; Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn; Latham & Watkins; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; Nixon Peabody; Perkins Coie; Reed Smith; Schiff Hardin; Seyfarth Shaw; Snell & Wilmer; and Wiley Rein.