This is a very delicate subject and I don’t know enough about it to discuss it with any degree of authority. But apparently, the suicide rate among lawyers has been mounting in recent years. The studies have not isolated lawyers by area of practice, only lawyers as a profession compared to other professions like the practice of dentistry, medicine, or even law enforcement. It seems that lawyers are high on the list of being professionals who get very stressed out about their jobs and for a disturbingly high percentage, the result is often suicide. The phenomenon seems to hit male lawyers harder. Often, these lawyers are not transactional lawyers per se. They tend to be litigators – engaged in high conflict courtroom battles and motion practice.
I would venture to opine that female lawyers are more inclined to wind up in the Family Law practice than other areas of law. It seems that there is a disproportionate number of women who are divorce and family lawyers as compared to other areas of law where they are fewer in numbers. In other words, except for divorce trials in contested divorce actions, the divorce lawyer may in theory enjoy less stress than, say, the civil litigator or even the defense attorney in criminal matters. Do you agree? So for that reason, the suicide rate among divorce lawyers is no higher than for other areas of practice and so there is no additional cause for concern. The concern, in other words, would be for lawyers globally, as a profession as a whole, and not so much divorce lawyers because a) divorce lawyers are often women who are less inclined than men to commit suicide and b) divorce litigation is not usually as aggressive and stressful as other areas of litigation.
With that all being opined, I read this CNN article about suicide in the profession and it did give me pause. Because irregardless of their areas of practice (yes, I know there is no such word as “irregardless” but I liked it so I said it), too many lawyers seem stressed beyond their endurance and especially for men, a disturbingly high number take matters into their own hands and kill themselves. This is as likely to occur, it seems, in Big Law as well as in private small practices. And so the question becomes what can be done? Bar Associations across the country are trying to do what they can with CLE courses about “mental health” and the profession. But this is clearly not enough. One of the difficulties is detecting warning signs. Often, these lawyers (especially males as I said) exhibit no outward signs of distress. They are often “happily married” family men with thriving practices when they basically put a gun to their heads. So what is the solution? This is a very tough question. I personally don’t have an answer. Do you?
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