In 2016, two studies on the well-being of legal professionals revealed high rates of substance use among law students and elevated levels of depression among lawyers. These findings brought the mental health issue among lawyers to the forefront of the legal profession. In response to these concerns, law firms across the globe have started introducing well-being programs aimed at supporting the mental and emotional health of their attorneys. These programs typically encompass various initiatives and resources designed to improve overall wellbeing and work-life balance.
- Stress Reduction and Resilience Training: Many firms now offer stress reduction programs that teach lawyers how to manage stress and build mental resilience. These programs often include mindfulness and meditation sessions, stress management workshops, and yoga classes.
- Flexible Work Arrangements: Firms are increasingly allowing for flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options or part-time schedules, to help lawyers better work & life balance.
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): EAPs provide confidential counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to legal professionals dealing with personal or work-related stressors.
- Mental Health Resources: Law firms are promoting mental health awareness by providing access to resources like therapists, counselors, and mental health support networks. Firms also educate lawyers about the early signs of mental health issues and the importance of seeking help.
- Wellness Initiatives: Health and wellness programs, including fitness classes, nutritional guidance, and mindfulness workshops, aim to improve the physical and mental health of attorneys.
On September 21, 2023, New Jersey will implement new limitations on its mental health and substance abuse disclosure requirements for individuals applying to join the bar as attorneys. These revisions to the character and fitness questionnaire aim to encourage Bar candidates to take positive steps in addressing their mental health and addiction issues, aligning with a national trend towards promoting better mental health support within the legal profession.
While efforts are underway within the legal profession to enhance mental health, promote overall well-being among lawyers, and diminish the stigma associated with mental health issues, research has revealed some concerning statistics. In 2019, a report from the Australian Legal Services Board and Commissioner indicated that members of the legal profession experienced higher rates of mental health issues than the general public. In early 2023, a study found that attorneys with high work overcommitment were 2.2 times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts. Additionally, lawyers diagnosed with at least one mental illness were 1.8 times more likely to report having suicidal thoughts. The study found that ‘the profile of a lawyer with the highest risk for suicide is a socially isolated male, grappling with high levels of unmanageable stress, a relentless commitment to their work, and a history of mental health problems.’
We believe supporting programs, well-being initiatives, and mental health resources should place greater emphasis on understanding the intricate relationship between work overcommitment, loneliness, perceived stress, and suicidal ideation among legal professionals.
Organ, Jerome M. and Jaffe, David and Bender, Katherine, Suffering in Silence: The Survey of Law Student Well-Being and the Reluctance of Law Students to Seek Help for Substance Use and Mental Health Concerns (September 13, 2016). Journal of Legal Education, Vol. 66, Issue 1, Pg. 116, American University, WCL Research Paper No. 2017-02, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2839290
 Krill PR, Johnson R, Albert L. The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorneys. J Addict Med. 2016 Jan-Feb;10(1):46-52. doi: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000000182. PMID: 26825268; PMCID: PMC4736291.
 Karen Sloan, “New Jersey rolls back mental health disclosure for new lawyers, following national trend,” Reuters September 2022, https://www.reuters.com/legal/litigation/new-jersey-rolls-back-mental-health-disclosure-new-lawyers-following-national-2023-09-21/ (accessed 22 Sep 2023)
 Krill PR, Thomas HM, Kramer MR, Degeneffe N, Anker JJ. Stressed, Lonely, and Overcommitted: Predictors of Lawyer Suicide Risk. Healthcare (Basel). 2023 Feb 11;11(4):536. doi: 10.3390/healthcare11040536. PMID: 36833071; PMCID: PMC9956925.