California Lawyers Association

Legal Minds Under Pressure

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June 2024

By Betty J. Williams
CLA President

Twenty-two times. That’s how much more frequently attorneys with high stress contemplate suicide as compared to those with low stress. Twenty-two times! As a profession, attorneys contemplate suicide two- to three- times as often as the general adult population. 

(Source: Stressed, Lonely, and Overcommitted: Predictors of Lawyer Suicide Risk – PMC)

These statistics surprised me and captured my attention. Attorneys report higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress today than they did before the pandemic. The legal industry is aware of these statistics, and is making changes, but we must do our part to help ourselves, and our colleagues to improve our mental health.  After all, mental health is a cornerstone of our well-being, both personally and professionally. 

California Lawyers Association (CLA) stands at the forefront of championing mental health awareness and support within our legal community. May has been Mental Health Awareness Month for more than 20 years. Last month, CLA proudly joined forces with the Institute for Well-Being Week in Law to participate in Well-Being Week in Law, a pivotal initiative dedicated to fostering mental health awareness and resilience among legal professionals. 

Well-Being Week in Law offered a comprehensive program of events tailored to address the unique challenges and pressures encountered by lawyers. From an invigorating Zumba session led by attorney Kat Koh, to thought-provoking discussions on the impact of civility in legal profession with Justice Brian Currey and attorney Patrick Krill – who is also an advocate who has spearheaded numerous groundbreaking efforts to improve mental health in the legal profession – each activity promised valuable insights and actionable strategies for nurturing mental well-being amidst the demands of our profession. 

As detailed in the sobering findings of the “Stress, Drink, Leave” report, attorneys not only suffer from anxiety, stress and depression at alarming rates, but they are also at the forefront of poorly addressing these issues through alcohol and substance abuse and misuse. The study also uncovered alarm rates of the associated risky drinking among practicing attorneys, with women disproportionately affected by these mental health burdens. 

As President of CLA, I am deeply committed to fostering a culture of well-being and support within our legal community. Our participation in Well-Being Week in Law underscores this dedication, as we unite in solidarity to prioritize mental health and advocate for positive change. 

Moreover, I recently had the privilege of discussing the critical issue of mental health in the legal profession in an interview with Fox40. You can watch the interview here

Our commitment to mental health extends beyond awareness campaigns and discussions. Starting June 17, CLA’s Health and Wellness Committee is thrilled to host the fourth annual CLA Walking Challenge! Legal professionals and their friends and family are invited to participate in this free, virtual, six-week walking challenge. Teams of five will traverse across a virtual route to Icons of the World, a trip around the globe! The challenge will begin on Monday, June 17 and end on Monday, July 29, 2024.

Together, let us seize this opportunity to elevate the conversation surrounding mental health in the legal profession. By fostering a culture of compassion, resilience, and support, we can pave the way for a healthier, more sustainable future for all members of our legal community. 

For more information about CLA’s involvement in Well-Being Week in Law and to learn more, please visit our website

Betty Williams 
President, California Lawyers Association

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