Ride the Lightning

Cybersecurity and Future of Law Practice Blog
by Sharon D. Nelson Esq., President of Sensei Enterprises, Inc.

Sobering Stats on Lawyer Wellness from ALM

June 21, 2022

Above the Law reported on June 17 some sobering stats from the ALM Intelligence 2022 Mental Health and Substance Abuse Survey.  The survey collected data from more than 3400 respondents representing firms of all sizes. It was a global survey but nearly 80% of respondents were from the U.S.

A whopping 44% of respondents agree that mental health problems and substance abuse are at a “crisis level” in the legal industry, rising each year since 2019.

Thirty-five percent of respondents reported personally feeling depressed. Two-thirds of respondents reported having anxiety. An alarming three-quarters said that the profession has had a negative effect on over time, with 64% saying that their personal relationships have suffered because they were in the legal profession.

A startling 19% reported that they had contemplated suicide. What factors negatively impact their mental well-being?

  • 72% said “always on call/can’t disconnect
  • 59% reported “billable hour pressures”
  • 57% said “client demands”
  • 55% reported “lack of sleep”’

I was glad to hear that more law firms are providing Employee Assistance Programs – 61% are doing that, up from 54% in 2019. Clearly, we need more of such programs.

The quality of interpersonal relationships with colleagues has declined while working remotely according to 76% of respondents.  62% said remote work increased the quality of home-based relationships and 59% said remote working has increased their quality of life.

Mental health effects of remote work were less than clear. 38% of works reported increased mental health while 35% said it decreased mental health – and 27% reported no impact.

Muddy results also occurred when respondents were asked whether hybrid or remote working environments increase or decrease the likelihood of professional burnout.  25% said increase, 33% said decrease, 25% answered “stay the same,” and 17% didn’t know.

For those who reported that work flexibility lessened stress levels, they said the prospect of being forced to return to the old ways of working inspires significant anxiety.

Interesting given that firm leadership seems to encourage or enforce a return to the office.

Given my own conversions with colleagues, it resonated with me that the biggest reported mental health issue seems to be being always connected or on call – now that’s a problem we really need to solve. Burnout from being always on call is extraordinarily widespread.

Sharon D. Nelson, Esq., PresidentSensei Enterprises, Inc.
3975 University Drive, Suite 225Fairfax, VA 22030
Email:   Phone: 703-359-0700
Digital Forensics/Cybersecurity/Information Technology