Official Statement from the Council of Government regarding JLD’s concerns

Official Statement from the Council of Government regarding JLD’s concerns

On 13 February 2019, the Junior Lawyers Division of the Law Society of England and Wales wrote a letter to the Solicitors Regulation Authority after recent decisions adopted by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and appeals to the High Court regarding junior lawyers.

Specifically, our official collaborator referred to Sovani James and Emily Scott cases. Both were struck off as solicitors despite having been bullied and pressured by seniors and subjected to oppressive management. 

We want to make something clear: the “Instituto de Salud Mental de la Abogacía – Mental Health Institute of Legal Professions (ISMA-MHILP)” respects all institutions involved, regardless of our support to JLD.

Although these cases are out of our jurisdiction, the truth is that, after the internationalisation of the legal market, some Spanish law firms have offices or best friendship networks with other firms in England and Wales, and vice versa. 

For this reason, the JLD’s concerns are also us. Our colleagues are doing incredible work to improve solicitors’ well-being and mental health, and we are going to support them when they need it.

After this official letter, following the JLD’s concerns, our organisation is going to ask Spanish and Catalan bar associations the following questions:

a) What practical support and measures the Bar has in place for lawyers who are facing difficulties in raising their concerns in the workplace?

b) What is the Bar doing to ensure that organisations employing lawyers are being supportive and that these organisations do not have ‘toxic’ cultures in which lawyers feel unable to raise concerns or ask for help? 

At this moment, the ISMA-MHILP is changing its legal form and intern structure. Due to this circumstance, we will comply with this decision in the following manner: 

1. Approval of Board of Trustees whereby the manager will be able to send letters to Spanish and Catalan bar associations, asking them the questions as mentioned above. 

2. Creating a particular line of research within the Studies and Research Committee. 

Sincerely,

Council of Government of the ISMA-MHILP

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/ .

David Jaffe: a role model for us

David Jaffe: a role model for us

From left to right: Mckenzie Cross (staff), Manel Atserias Luque (president), Ferran Garcia de Palau Garcia-Faria (Well-Being Committee), David Jaffe (Associate Dean of Student Affairs of the American University Washington College of Law), Gabriela Boldó Prats (Well-Being Committee) y Albert Ruda (Dean of University of Girona Law School).

Mckenzie  Cross

Staff

In 2014, David Jaffe was one of three professionals to set in motion a change in how we look at mental health among legal professionals. He graduated in 1993 from American University, Washington College of Law with his Law degree. He has been Dean of Student Affairs since 1997. Anyone who has the honor to meet him can immediately appreciate the love and dedication he has to not only his job but the students that he encounters. I could listen to him speak at a conference in Girona, Spain and to learn about the study that he was apart of.

The article, “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,” was the results of the Survey of Law Student Well-Being (SLSWB). The study included 3,300 students from fifteen different law schools. It was the first multischool study on law student use of alcohol and street drugs in twenty years, and the first-ever study to address the use of prescription drugs. The study is allowing society to acknowledge that the mental health within law students is an issue that needs to be addressed and worked through.

The results of the study showed an astounding number of students struggling with mental illness. However, the study also showed how those students believed their mental illness would be perceived by the staff of their college as well as the American Bar Association. The study reported that fifty-three percent of law students drank enough to get drunk in the past thirty days. Seventeen percent of students were screened positive for depression, and thirty-seven percent screened positive for anxiety. With numbers being so high, it is incredible that it is not considered a better know problem; however, Universities cannot help students if they are not coming forward. The study showed that only four percent of respondents sought professional help with drug and alcohol abuse. Sixty-three percent of students reported that they feared there would be a threat to their bar admission if they sought help for alcohol and drug abuse. However, the percentage is only slightly smaller with forty-five percent fearing the same repercussions if they stepped forward with a mental illness. The study shows many different issues among law students; however, the most impressive part of Jaffe’s work was not the study, but rather his dedication to finding solutions.

Suffering in silence identifies a few actions that could be put in place to help students. One of the most important activities was for faculty to have strict attendance policies. This will help faculty look for warning signs, such as a missing student class unexpectedly or coming in late with no notice — also the policy that faculty should attend regular training on how to identify the warning signs of mental health issues. A faculty member that can recognize strange behavior and approach the student with nonjudgmental looks and listening ears will get a better response then students seeking help on their own. Another action that David Jaffe spoke of at the conference was to make a drug and alcohol course mandatory for incoming law students. This could help students to know the risks of their behavior as well as opening them up to understand that the college cares about their safety and health.

Mental health among law students is a growing issue. With help from people like David Jaffe and others, we can help put into place policies and actions to help them. Students need to know that they are not alone and that how they are feeling is not their fault, being compassionate and working to make them feel comfortable and not judged will help to turn this epidemic around.