well-being icon Suicide

Lawyers are twice as likely as non-lawyers to think about suicide, according to a 2023 study in the journal Healthcare.


The study – “Stressed, Lonely and Overcommitted: Predictors of Lawyer Suicide Risk” – found that male lawyers, lawyers who work long hours and young lawyers are at increased risk of suicidal thoughts.


The survey of 1,962 lawyers found that 8.5% reported thoughts that they would be better off dead or of hurting themselves. By comparison, 4.3% of all adults in the U.S. have thought about suicide, according to a recent national study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Male lawyers are somewhat more likely to think about suicide than female lawyers (9.1% vs. 7.8%), according to the Healthcare study. Also, younger lawyers are more likely to think about suicide than older lawyers. For example, more than 14% of lawyers age 30 or younger thought about suicide compared with nearly 7% of lawyers in their 40s and nearly 9% of lawyers in their 50s.


The problem is most acute among junior law firm associates. More than 14% of junior associates reported thinking about suicide – roughly twice as much as senior associates (7%), junior partners (8%), senior partners (6%) and managing partners (7%).


Suicidal thoughts are also slightly more common among lawyers at private law firms than in other legal settings. More than 9% of lawyers at private firms said they had thought about suicide compared with 8.3% of in-house counsels at corporations and for-profit organizations and 7.5% of in-house counsels at government, public interest or nonprofit offices. Sole practitioners in private practice were least likely to think of suicide: 6.6%


Lawyers who work very long hours are also more prone to suicidal thoughts, according to the study. Nearly 15% of lawyers who worked 61 hours or more per week have thought of suicide. That’s nearly double the rate for lawyers who work 31 to 50 hours a week (8%).


Finally, two-thirds of lawyers who thought about suicide (66%) said that their time in the legal profession has been detrimental to their mental health. Only 27% of lawyers who had not thought of suicide said the same thing.

well-being icon  Women and men


Female lawyers were more likely to experience stress, anxiety and depression than male lawyers and were more likely to engage in hazardous drinking, according to a 2020 survey of nearly 3,000 attorneys sponsored by the California Lawyers Association and the D.C. Bar.


The survey also found that more women than men (24% versus 17%) considered leaving the legal profession due to mental health problems, burnout or stress.


According to the survey:

Two-thirds of women (67%) reported moderate or severe stress compared with less than half of men (49%).
Nearly one-quarter of women (23%) reported moderate or severe anxiety compared with 15% of men.
One in 5 women (20%) reported moderate or severe depression compared with 15% of men.
One-third of women (34%) reported hazardous drinking compared with 25% of men. Hazardous drinking is measured on a scale that depends on how often one drinks, how many drinks one has when one drinks and how often one has six or more drinks on one occasion.


The survey concluded that women who experienced more conflicts between work and family were four times more likely to leave the legal profession, or consider leaving, due to mental health issues, burnout and stress. Work-family conflict was also a significant factor for men, but less so, the study found.


well-being icon Life and practice

Most lawyers said their law firms support their mental health and family needs, with some caveats, according to the 2021 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report. 

More than half (55%) of the lawyers surveyed agreed with the statement “My workplace is supportive of my mental health needs.” Only 9% disagreed. Nearly half (46%) said their firm provides resources on substance use and addiction or other mental health services and support. One out of 6 lawyers (16%) said they don’t know if their firms provide such services.

Likewise, nearly two-thirds of lawyers (65%) said they agree with the statement “My job allows me to spend adequate time with my family.” Just 17% disagreed. 

Views are mixed on questions about time spent at work, breaks during the day and vacations. A majority (51%) said they “take adequate breaks during the workday,” but a quarter (28%) said they do not. And one-quarter of the lawyers surveyed (27%) said they feel pressure to not take vacation time.

Despite that, most lawyers (63%) said they agree with the statement “I make time for myself.”


Lawyers report nearly universal employer support for working parents. Nearly 3 out of 4 lawyers (74%) said their firm’s support for working parents is good or very good. Only 5% said it is poor or very poor.

Yet more than half of all lawyers (51%) said they work long hours. Asked to “generally describe your work week,” more than one-third of the lawyers surveyed (39%) said they often work long hours and another 12% said they “never stop working.” 


• The vast majority of lawyers (83%) said their firm offers flexible hours – work schedules outside the typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday.
• Most lawyers (82%) agreed with the statement “In general, technology makes it easier to balance work and family obligations.” Only 8% disagreed.


life-practice legend

well-being icon  Judges

Nearly one-quarter of all judges (23%) meet the criteria for experiencing stress at a level that could be debilitating, according to the National Judicial Stress and Resiliency Survey, a groundbreaking 2020 study by the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility. Female judges are more likely than male judges to report one or more symptoms of stress (73% versus 54%), according to the survey.

The survey of 1,034 judges – mostly in state courts – found that 1 in 5 meet at least one criterion for depressive disorder, such as depressed mood, not having initiative, preoccupation with negative thoughts, feelings that work is no longer meaningful and feelings that they can’t wait for the day’s work to end. 

Nearly 1 in 10 judges (9.5%) reported problematic alcohol use in the past year. That’s half the rate of lawyers overall who reported problematic drinking in a previous study (20.6%) and one-third the rate of young lawyers age 30 or less (32%). 

Twenty-two judges who participated in the survey (2%) said they had experienced thoughts of suicide or self-injury in the previous year. The study concluded that this “is very troubling” and that “judges would benefit from increased suicide awareness.” Among lawyers overall in a previous study, 11.5% reported suicidal thoughts over their entire careers. 

Source: National Judicial Stress and Resiliency Survey, 2020 ABA Journal of the Professional Lawyer

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