In recent years, other professions classically oriented to offer services, such as law practitioners, have been concerned about the health status of their professionals and the need to carry out specific actions aimed at improving their wellness.
An study conducted in 2016 by the American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation in 13,000 lawyers, showed that between 21-36% suffered alcoholism problems, 28% depression, 19% anxiety and 23% stress (1). In addition, these professionals suffer other problems such as addiction to work, sleep disturbances, professional wear, absence of family and labor reconciliation, loss of personal values, loss of social recognition and even suicide (2).
On the same line, the Survey of Law Student Well-Being, conducted in 15 faculties of law on 3,300 students found in this population some degree of depression (17%), severe anxiety (14%), moderate (23%), suicide attempts (6%) in the last year and a high risk of alcoholism (3).
Following these studies, the main American organizations of Law launched the National Task Force on Lawyer well-being, and published in August 2017 the report The Path to Lawyer Well- Being: Practical Recommendations For Positive Change. The main reasons to promote this initiative according to these organizations are three: to improve the effectiveness of the organizations (impact on the productivity and professional exchange), the ethical integrity (professionalism, which demands the best conditions of the lawyer to offer the best services to his client) and the need to do the right things. This report contains 44 recommendations directed mainly at schools and law firms, judges and faculties in order to reduce the mental health problems of the aforementioned groups and, consequently, to obtain a greater well-being professional. Emphasis is placed on a concept of multidimensional well-being defined by an ongoing process that seeks to achieve health from all dimensions including not only physics, but the emotional, spiritual sphere, intellectual, social and occupational.
In Spain, in September 2017 the Mental Health Institute of Legal Profession (ISMA-MHILP) was created, promoted by Manel Atserias: an organization that works for the wellbeing of legal professions (advocacy, Attorney-General, judiciary, lawyers of the administration of justice and prosecutor, among others) and of the students of law. Its objectives are born from the interest of knowing the situation of the mental state, well-being and the psychosocial risk factors inherent in the legal professions. It seeks to improve the well-being of these professions through research and implementation of organisational strategies and policies as well as individuals that can help to detect situations of risk, reduce the onset of disease and promote the state of well-being in all its dimensions. In addition, it specifically seeks to reduce the stigma of mental illnesses of these professionals which would facilitate the request for help.
To this important initiative has been joined from the outset, Instituto Superior de Derecho y Economía (ISDE), the Colegio Oficial de Psicología de Cataluña (COPC), Jóvenes Juristas de Cataluña (JJC), Federación Catalana de Entidades de Salud Mental en Primera Persona (VEUS) and Asociación TOC 2.0.
Next May 18th, Proyecto HU-CI will be at the informative breakfast: Worrying about legal professionals generates added value. This event promoted by ISMA-MHILP in collaboration with ISDE aims to be a turning point and a wake-up call on the need to take care of the professionals of the law as it happens in other professions.
Surely the experience of Proyecto HU-CI will serve as a help and example of how change is possible. It will not be an easy path but not less necessary and motivating. All our support and best wishes to this initiative and to these professionals of the law and the H-advocacy.
1. R. Krill, R. Johnson, & L. Albert, The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorneys, 10 J. ADDICTION MED. 46 (2016).
2. M. Bradford, Building the Positive Law Firm: The Legal Profession At Its Best (August 1, 2014) (Master’s thesis, Univ. Pa., on le with U. Pa. Scholarly Commons Database), available at http://repository.upenn.edu/mapp_capstone/62/.
3. M. Organ, D. Ja e, & K. Bender, Suffering in Silence: The Survey of Law Student Well-Being and the Reluctance of Law Students to Seek Help for Substance Use and MentalHealth Concerns, 66 J. LEGAL EDUC. 116 (2016).