When Lawyers Need Help: Dealing with the Stress of Law

"All of the major studies confirm that the legal profession has higher rates of alcohol abuse and substance abuse than any other profession. We're also seeing higher rates of mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression," says DC Bar Disciplinary Counsel Wallace E. "Gene" Shipp Jr. in "When Lawyers Need Help", an interview with managing editor of Washington Lawyer, Tim Wells. Why are lawyers twice as likely to be addicts as the general population? In a word, stress. It's a problem that shows up early -- in law school – and only gets worse over the course of attorneys' careers. The stress comes from many different sources of pressure:

  • Student debt and other financial pressures

  • Job search and career transitions

  • Career development

  • Client pressures and high stakes

  • Business development

  • Law firm management

  • Relationships and family life

As much as we're hearing about the problems with the legal profession these days, Shipp says the problem has not changed over the years; only our awareness has changed.

What can we do? Take good care of ourselves and our colleagues, including finding outside interests.