Eric C. Lang

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We know that a career in law is challenging, but our profession has only recently focused on the mental health consequences of those challenges. We first started analyzing mental health issues after a number of attorney suicides caught the public eye. Realizing the problem was much broader than the tragic outcome of suicide, we have spent the last several years focused on the use of statistics to convince the profession of its own dangers. The solution, to date, has been an emphasis on Lawyer Assistance Programs and “wellness” initiatives accompanied by what could be described as scare tactics designed to alert attorneys to the scope of the problem.

This Article suggests a three‑fold strategy that recognizes that the roughly 77.2% of the population that has no mental illness is different from the roughly 22.8% who do have one in some form. First, we must separate what we know (this is a hard profession) from what we do not and cannot and need not know—precise quantification.

This Article explores in some depth whether our efforts to quantify are reliable. We also must know what we can and cannot change—we have no chance of making a life in the law easy and stress free. Second, we must explore the right and wrong places for institutional involvement. Institution-driven Lawyer Assistance Programs and “wellness” initiatives have proven their worth. However, the threat of a rules‑based approach that links ethics to mental health conditions should be avoided. Third, we need to know our audience and treat them with respect. This means losing the language of fear, tailoring our approach to the 22.8%, as well as the 77.2%, and encouraging those with life‑experience, as opposed to academic credentials, to take a leadership role in this area.