In my previous blog, I discussed depression more generally and you can find further information about this here.
Today, I would like to delve deeper into depression looking at lawyers and the legal culture.
Empirical research into the legal sector highlights lawyers experience more mental health problems such as depression than the general population.
As someone who is both a lawyer and a therapist, I am not surprised to see the statistics of high depression amongst lawyers. I practised law for many years specialising in litigation.
I thoroughly enjoy the law. I loved studying law and practicing the law.
However, the everyday life of a lawyer is nothing like what you may see on TV. I have devoted time and research into this area and I have written a dissertation discussing the impact of the legal workplace on mental health. From my research, I would urge law firms to invest in the wellbeing of it’s lawyers.
Why is depression high amongst lawyers?
A typical day for a lawyer comprises of high pressure, never ending emails and telephone calls, deadlines, Court hearings, billing and meeting targets. I am sure fellow lawyers can relate to this. In the legal world, more often than not you will be engaged in some form of contest with the opposition. Because of this, immediately there is emphasis on winning the contest.
Due to the constant pressure of winning and billing, the legal working environment can be notoriously competitive. This can instill a daily fear within some lawyers in ensuring that they do not make mistakes. Losing at trial or failing at a task is not an option, which can generate loneliness and low self-esteem.
At law school, students are taught to think like a lawyer. This means removing all emotion from a situation and focusing on the analysis. This can have detrimental effects for some individuals who may be predisposed to mental health issues.
Emotional intelligence in all aspects of life, whether it be social or at work is essential. I highly recommend a book written by Daniel Goleman called Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, which deals with this beautifully. Studies that have researched why lawyers are unhappy have concluded that unhappiness and dissatisfaction in particular stemmed from three causes:
- employers viewed pessimism as a necessary characteristic
- young lawyers were given jobs that involved high pressure and low decision making capacity which promoted poor health and low morale
- the adversarial system fostered aggression in lawyers
What can law firms do?
Though several studies have revealed a high prevalence of depression, anxiety and addiction amongst lawyers, this certainly did not deter me from practising law, and I hope that it does not discourage students who aspire to become lawyers. The law is exciting and being a lawyer allowed me to stretch my capabilities and push me to be better every day, both intellectually and mentally. Law schools and law firms have a duty of care to their students and employees and I believe it begins with seeing them not as commodities and in terms of profitability but as, individuals.
How can hypnotherapy and psychotherapy help improve lawyer’s mental wellbeing?
There are several hypnotherapy and psychotherapeutic techniques that can help lawyers. Hypnotherapy with relaxation and focusing techniques can assist lawyers increase their self awareness. For further information about Inner Resolve hypnotherapy click here. Psychotherapeutic techniques such a cognitive behavioural therapy and solution focused therapy are great in helping lawyers contextualise. Further information about Inner Resolve hypno-psychotherapy can be found here.
I believe that law schools and law firms should invest in their students and employees mental well-being because surely, a lawyer who feels fulfilled and is mentally well will boost the firm’s profitably.
Speaking as a lawyer and a hypno-psychotherapist, this could a great investment for the legal community.