The importance of lawyers well-being

The importance of lawyers well-being

Mckenzie Cross

Staff

Note: The author makes reference to the American legal market

Over the past few months, professionals have become more aware of the mental health issues within the legal profession. A rise in depression, anxiety, and stress is leading to worry among the community of lawyers. A worldwide leader, Paul Rawlinson, took a leave of absence in early October this year. Rawlinson was the chairman of the successful Baker McKenzie Firm. He has been chair for two years now and during that period he has witnessed a growth within the firm. Baker McKenzie announced an eight percent gross revenue increase from 2017-2018. Not only gross revenue raised, they reported a significant fourteen percent increase in profits per equity partner (1). Seemingly successful, Rawlinson’s announcement to take a leave surprised people among the community,however, with success comes stress. The firm issued a statement stating, “ Baker McKenzie Global Chair Paul Rawlinson has announced that he will be stepping back from his day-to-day responsibilities and taking temporary leave to focus on a personal medical issue.Based on the advice of his doctor, in response to medical issues caused by exhaustion, Paul has decided to take a step back from Firm leadership and client responsibilities to make his health and recovery his immediate priority.” (2) A leave of exhaustion might not seem like a dying need to take mental illness seriously, however, put it together with someone as important and successful as Rawlinson and other cases of mental illness among lawyers and it becomes a larger issue.

October 14th, 2018 in Los Angeles, California, well known lawyer Gabriel MacConaill was found in his car dead from a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Same as Rawlinson, MacConaill was very successful in his career. In 2009 McConaill, joined Sidley Austin’s Los Angeles practice. By 2014, he had made partner and was building an impressive client base. Seemingly happy and successful it came as a shock again to see just how much he was struggling with inside his mind. Mental illness is not something recognized very often among the legal profession yet it is an increasingly large problem.

August of this year another suicide among a partner was committed by Bruce Wickersham. He was a partner at DLA Piper’s Boston office. Suicides are happening all over the country among lawyers. In Chicago Stewart Dolin, an M&A partner at Reed Smith, jumped in front of a moving train taking his own life. These are only a few cases among many that happen around the world. The question is, why is this issue not more widely known? The answer, fear of stigma.

Study shows that twenty-eight percent of lawyers reported that they struggled with some type of depression in the past 12 months. That is four times higher than the national average. Even more concerning is that sixty-one percent admitted to feeling depressed at some point in their career. That is ten times the national average (3). Considering these numbers we have to come to the conclusion that within the legal profession there is an epidemic. However, that epidemic spreads to law students as well. The Survey of Law Student Well-Being and the Reluctance of Law Students to Seek Help for Substance Use and Mental Health Concerns reported outstanding numbers in not only mental health issues but in substance abuse as well. However, one of the most interesting points of focus in the study is the reason that students did not report having a problem. Sixty -three percent of students reported fear that they would not be admitted to the Bar if they reported a substance abuse problem; forty- three percent shared that same fear if they reported having a mental health issue (4).

The report clearly shows the stigma around mental health, however, that is not a reason to let it go unsolved. The easiest way to help those suffering is to let them know that they are not alone. There are websites and hotlines that can help them deal with the pressure and stress that they may be facing at their jobs. Mental illness is an issue that will never fully go away but with help from the community, loved ones, and acknowledgment from the law firms we can find better ways to cope with it.


(1) Walker, Rose. “Baker McKenzie Leader to Temporarily Step Down Due to Exhaustion.” The Legal Intelligencer. October 22, 2018. Accessed December 03, 2018. https://www.law.com/international/2018/10/22/baker-mckenzie-chairman-paul-rawlinson-to-temporarily-step-down-from-role-396-8258/.

(2) Rubino, Kathryn. “Global Chair Of Biglaw Firm Taking Temporary Leave Due To Exhaustion.” Above the Law. October 22, 2018. Accessed December 03, 2018. https://abovethelaw.com/2018/10/global-chair-of-biglaw-firm-taking-temporary-leave-due-to-exhaustion/.

(3)Dan. “Why We Need to Talk About Lawyers’ Mental Health Now.” Lawyers With Depression. September 23, 2018. Accessed December 03, 2018. http://www.lawyerswithdepression.com/articles/why-we-need-to-talk-about-lawyers-mental-health-now/.

(4) Organ, Jerome M., David B. Jaffe, and Katherine M. Bender. “Suffering in Silence: The Survey of Law Student Well-Being and the Reluctance of Law Students to Seek Help for Substance Use and Mental Health Concerns.” Journal of Legal Education. Accessed December 03, 2018. https://jle.aals.org/home/vol66/iss1/13/ .

Brian Cuban and the Road to Recovery

Brian Cuban and the Road to Recovery

Mckenzie Cross

Staff

Brian Cuban, an attorney in Dallas Texas, graduated from The University of Pittsburgh School of Law already deep into addiction. As a freshman at eighteen, he became anorexic. By the age of nineteen, he was bulimic and would stay bulimic until his recovery as forty-four years old. He became an alcoholic by the age of twenty-two, and at the age of twenty- five he was self-harming. He then added cocaine to his list of struggles at the age of twenty-seven and addiction to steroids at the age of thirty. He had become suicidal, spent time in a psychiatric hospital twice and had three failed marriages all before the age of forty-four. Finally, on April 7th, 2007, after a two-day blackout, caused by drugs and alcohol, he was in recovery.

During his recovery, he stopped practicing law and became an influential advocate for rehabilitation not only in the law field but in general as well. His first book was published in August 2013, titled “My Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder“. In the book, he reaches out to his audience and tells of how he grew up diagnosed and suffering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). BDD is a severe disorder where a person is obsessed with minor or sometimes imaginary flaws. The disorder is commonly affiliated with addiction and other abusive behaviors. Throughout the book, he takes his readers on a journey through what he went through during his childhood. From dealing with bullying, rejections, and his depression, you get to know Brian Cuban as a person.  Larry North, Healthy Living Lifestyle Expert, Bestselling author of Get Fit and Living Lean wrote,”Having helped people learn to lose weight and keep it off for more than 25 years, I now believe Brian Cuban has had the courage to open an emotional door that will give both men and women a true understanding of how they perceive their body image and unlock that door for a lifetime of success”.       

 Having touched his audience and helped to break down the stigma of males with mental and eating disorders he released the second book in June of 2017 titled, “The Addicted Lawyer: Tales of the Bar, Booze, Blow, and Redemption“. In his second book, Brian focuses on his story as an addict in the legal profession in a heartfelt and honest reflection of his life choices and his career. However, the book also helps to bring light to mental illness and addiction within the legal field. He goes into depth as to why there is such a high percentage of law professionals that will suffer from these different disorders throughout their lives and careers. Brian also wanted to focus on how to help those suffering in analyzing different treatment methods, detailing different types of therapies, and whether or not twelve-step programs are the only therapies that genuinely work. Along with his story and thoughts on recovery, Brian also includes stories from other lawyers that have suffered from addiction and mental illness and their roads to redemption. Through a book of compelling testimonies, you get to know the real lives of lawyers and professionals who have suffered and ways to help those who might currently be.          

Along with his two successful books, he also travels around the United States and Canada speaking to universities, conferences, nonprofit and legal events.   His writings have appeared, and he has been quoted on these topics on CNN.com, Foxnews.com, The Huffington Post, Above The Law, The New York Times, and in online articles from all over the world. Some of his most famous speeches include speaking at The American Bar Association’s annual conference, Katie Couric show, The Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, and many more well-known conventions.

Brian Cuban has now dedicated his life to helping people from across the world. His work is opening up the eyes of people and helping them in acknowledging the fact that mental illness and addiction is a genuine and severe disease. With help from people in all different professions and the support of clients and citizens, we can attempt to help, inform, and provide assistance to those in need of it.