ABA launches pledge campaign to improve mental health and well-being of lawyers

The American Bar Association is launching an innovative campaign targeting substance-use disorders and mental health issues among lawyers, and some of the nation’s largest law firms have already pledged to support the initiative and adopt its framework for improved well-being.

The campaign, organized by the ABA Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession, is designed to address the profession’s troubling rates of alcohol and other substance-use disorders, as well as mental health issues. Recent studies have documented that lawyers struggle with these problems at levels substantially above both the general population and other highly educated professionals.

“I wholeheartedly support this important effort to assist and improve the health of lawyers in this country,” ABA President Bob 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. 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.”

Based on a framework developed by working group member Patrick Krill, the campaign’s goals are to raise awareness, facilitate a reduction in the incidence of problematic substance-use and mental health distress and improve lawyer well-being. From education to policies to culture, the seven-point pledge identifies the core areas on which firms should focus and the concrete steps they should take as they seek to achieve those goals.

Firms that have signed the pledge include Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer, & Feld LLP; Corette, Black, Carlson, & Mickelson PC; Duane Morris LLP; Honigman, Miller, Schwartz, and Cohn LLP; Latham & Watkins LLP; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP; Nixon Peabody LLP; Perkins Coie LLP; Reed Smith, LLP; Schiff Hardin LLP; Seyfarth Shaw LLP; Snell & Wilmer LLP; and Wiley Rein LLP. The ABA hopes all legal employers take the pledge by Jan. 1, 2019, to be included in the inaugural class that is making this commitment to lawyer well-being.

The working group was formed in September 2017 at the request of then-president Hilarie Bass to examine and make recommendations about what legal employers can do to improve the current state of attorney mental health and substance-use issues and support a healthy work environment. Carlson, her successor, has asked the group to continue its work through his one-year term.

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