California Lawyers Association

Stress, Drink, Leave: Study Examines Gender-Specific Risk Factors for Mental Health Problems and Attrition Among Licensed Attorneys

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When it comes to stress and problem-drinking among lawyers, there are significant differences between the risk factors for men and women in the profession, according to a research study done last year with the cooperation of CLA members.

Members of CLA and the D.C. Bar, which also facilitated the research study, got a sneak preview of the findings during a webinar in late April. The full results will be released to the public on May 12 in conjunction with Mental Health Awareness Month. 

The study was done last summer by surveying a random sampling of members of the D.C. and California bar associations. It measured levels of depression, anxiety, perceived stress, alcohol use, workplace permissiveness toward alcohol, work-family conflict, thoughts of leaving the profession, effort-reward imbalance, work overcommitment and perceived possibility of promotion.

The study also looked at what effect the COVID-19 pandemic had on anxiety and alcohol use. 

Author and attorney well-being expert Patrick Krill, one of the study’s authors, said he hopes the results will help law schools and law firms develop strategies to prevent future problems as well as address existing ones. 

A key focus of the May data release will be gender differences. Other recent studies have shown that the legal profession has been losing women, which is hurting efforts to diversify the profession. Krill said he hopes the study will inform efforts to address this attrition.

Future data will delve into value systems and how they impact mental health, personality and behavioral factors, racial disparities and the toll of burnout and stress on physical health.

“Having this rigorous data is a huge gift to those of us who make our living supporting the profession and supporting lawyers,” said CLA Executive Director Ona Alston Dosunmu.

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