Boston, we have a problem: The data on mental health and practice is out

I need a break...Massachusetts has a lot going for it. Harvard there, for example. They also have this funny little way of pronouncing the word “yard” like they’re just throwing it out of their mouths. And oh… I’m sure there’s something else, right? That third thing might be what it takes to make coaching in New England more bearable. Because people are having difficulty registering these bills at the moment. From Reuters:

A study released Wednesday showed that Massachusetts lawyers are stressed and suffer from higher rates of anxiety and depression.

Researchers from Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers and NORC at the University of Chicago surveyed 4,450 attorneys in Massachusetts last year for the latest study. Across the state, 77% reported feeling overwhelmed, 26% reported high levels of anxiety, 21% reported depression and 7% reported suicidal thoughts — all above average for US adults.

The survey also found high rates of alcohol consumption, with 42% of respondents reporting unhealthy or dangerous use.

Now, except that they didn’t make a systematic error and only got the opinions of people who were essentially asking for help – let’s say lawyers looking to go see Pagliacci or Adult Swifties™, for example, that’s a healthy sample of people should be this bad. And While lawyers have had disproportionately high rates of drinking for a while nowthe 42% self-reported rate of unhealthy or dangerous use is very close to halving relief.

One outsider might color the data: COVID-19. However, it is likely that the results are still worth noting.

“Almost half indicated that they are considering leaving their legal employer, and 40% reported that they have considered leaving the legal profession entirely in the past three years due to burnout or stress,” according to the study, Welfare lawyer in Massachusetts.

The authors said the timing of the survey, which was conducted amid the COVID-19 pandemic, likely contributed to the reported higher rates of burnout and anxiety. But it was consistent with previous findings that lawyers have higher rates of substance abuse and mental health problems than the general population and other professions.

This glosses over some advice that even companies not based in Massachusetts might want to consider: It may be in their own interest to cool off from their strict back-to-the-office policies. Who really wants to add gossip to their depressive brew at this point? Burnout through colleagues may be a viable economic tactic at some point, but with burnout rates like these, even the lowest dollar for dollar can suffer.

A new Massachusetts study found that burnout, anxiety and depression were particularly high among minorities. The burnout rate among black and Hispanic attorneys was 86% and 88%, respectively, compared to 77% among white attorneys. Attorneys responsible for childcare also reported higher rates of burnout.

The survey found that nearly half of the lawyers who tested positive for depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts did not seek mental health care. The researchers attributed this to the stigma surrounding mental health issues, as well as a lack of time and fear of retaliation from professionals.

The fear of professional retaliation is obvious – remember the man who wanted to outfit a woman for him “Sitting on her butt” while on maternity leave? The partner is dead, long live the assertiveness mentality, oddly enough, is wonderful for the company and very difficult for partners and associates. They’re the ones in the oak box, after all. Fortunately, the study ends on a practical note.

The study found that attorneys who reported a supportive work environment where they were treated with kindness and respect, while being given flexibility and access to guidance, had higher life satisfaction and lower rates of burnout, anxiety, and depression.

So, Boston attorneys and anyone else who fits your shoe, you work all those hours at the firm, so why not work on yourself a little bit? Take a day or two off, talk to a therapist – maybe you can find one online. Hey, if that means joining a company that treats you like a real person, then so be it.

Burnt. depression. Red flags abound in the Massachusetts law school [Reuters]

Chris Williams became Social Media Director and Associate Editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he worked as a Memelord™ Secondary Student on the Facebook group. Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri State long enough to graduate from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. He’s a former boat builder who can’t swim. Published author in Critical Race Theory, Philosophy, and Humor, and has a love for cycling that sometimes annoys his peers. You can reach him via email at and by tweeting at @tweet.

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