California Lawyers Association

California Lawyers Association Announces Groundbreaking New Research Project on Lawyer Mental Health and Well-being

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The California Lawyers Association is pleased to announce its participation in a groundbreaking new research project designed to advance the understanding of and support for mental health and well-being in the legal profession.

The project, to be spearheaded by attorney mental health and well-being expert Patrick Krill, will be launched in late March and will build upon and expand findings from the landmark 2016 ABA/Hazelden Betty Ford study that Krill led. Along with his colleague Dr. Justin Anker, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, Krill is designing a survey that will assess the current prevalence of mental health and substance use problems among licensed attorneys and identify underlying risk factors and contributing causes for those problems.

“As the bar association for all California attorneys, CLA is excited to participate in this important research project. The health—including mental health—and well-being of our members is critically important to us,” said CEO and Executive Director Ona Alston Dosunmu. “We hope the findings from this critical survey will provide insights into ways to better serve and assist our members and the profession.” 

The anonymous and confidential survey will investigate a range of individual risk factors for mental health and substance use problems (stress sensitivity, early life adversity, impulsivity, sleep, diet, exercise, social and financial health, burnout, personality disorders, drinking to cope with negative emotions) as well as cultural and workplace risk factors (stress in environment, incivility, toxic goals, incentivized and rewarded behaviors, attitudes towards substance use and self-care, availability and utilization of support resources). Importantly, the survey will also ask respondents to share their views about what can and should be done to promote better mental health and personal well-being within the profession.

This research is crucial to furthering the progress that has been made around attorney mental health in recent years and will allow the profession to develop and deploy meaningful strategies and resources to improve the health of its members and to chart a more sustainable future.

“The legal profession has made great strides in the realm of mental health, substance use, and well-being over the last few years but, in many ways, our work is just beginning. Increased knowledge and understanding of the problems are vital to our ongoing efforts towards a long-term cultural change that will truly improve the health and well-being of lawyers. We need to move beyond prevalence data alone, and to shed light on the many risk factors that exist on both the profession-wide and individual level. I am incredibly grateful to the CLA for its enthusiasm for this work and its desire to lead on this front,” Krill said.

According to Krill, the survey will also be distributed to members of the D.C. Bar, the largest unified bar in the country. The D.C. Bar’s participation in the research project not only increases the sample size and geographic diversity of the study, but also demonstrates the type of collaborative approach necessary to successfully address profession-wide challenges. Analysis of the results is expected to take several months from the time data collection ends, with the findings to be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

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