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Do Law Firms Need On-Site Therapists for Lawyers' Mental Health?

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

'When did you first start fantasizing about becoming a wealthy BigLaw partner?' the therapist asks.

Alright, it's a fantasy but is it a malady? According to reports, it is at least part of a serious problem at large law firms today.

Some of those law firms are offering on-site psychologists and training staff to deal with mental-health issues, the Wall Street Journal reported. The newspaper says it reflects a trend in the profession that it's OK to see a therapist.

Depression, Addiction and Suicide

Studies show that alcohol abuse is increasing among lawyers. They have the 11th highest suicide rate by profession. Almost a third are depressed.

"Big firms have long been reticent to openly address addiction and other mental-health problems, despite research showing lawyers face higher rates of substance abuse, depression and suicide than the wider population," the Journal reported.

Every practicing attorney knows first-hand the challenges of handling clients' problems. The adversarial environment, liabilities, deadlines and economic pressures amount to first-class stress.

But not every lawyer thinks that therapy is the solution. According to the American Lawyer, it comes down to this: partners are "pulling up the ladder" on associates.

"Pulling Up the Ladder"

New associates celebrate admission to practice at BigLaw, only to learn that they have no life outside the billable hours. Seven years and a receding hairline later, they find out that partnership is not exactly what they dreamed of.

In 1985, American Lawyer conducted a survey and found that 36 percent of all lawyers in the nation's 50 largest firms were equity partners. By 2016, the number had dropped to 22 percent. Non-equity partners now fill out the ranks.

"Stated another way, it's twice as difficult to become an equity partner today as it was in 1985," Steven Harper writes. "That's what's been happening at the financial pinnacle of the profession."

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