More Lawyers Seek Help for Depression, Addictions; Economy a Factor

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Lawyer assistance programs are seeing more lawyers seeking help with problems such as depression and substance abuse, and the economic downturn may be at least partly to blame.

Lawyer assistance programs created by bar associations in California and Illinois are seeing twice as many cases as usual; programs in New York and North Carolina are also seeing increases, the National Law Journal reports. Those seeking help range from law students who can’t find jobs, to associates who have been laid off, to older lawyers who can’t retire because of investment losses.

Janet Piper Voss, executive director of the Illinois program, told the National Law Journal that there is no hard evidence the economy is to blame. "But that's the sense we have,” she said. “There is something different going on right now."

Richard Carlton, the manager of education, research and program development for the program in California, told the NLJ that the economy is a factor but it is not necessarily the only reason lawyers are seeking help. Instead it is an added stress that is pushing lawyers to seek help if they already have problems such as addiction or depression.

The Illinois program will add a second weekly therapy session for lawyers who have attempted suicide. The psychologist running the program is Susan Riegler.

"By and large, what I see is depression and a feeling that things won't turn around, or I hear from people who had a lifestyle they can no longer afford," Riegler told the legal newspaper.

Some laid-off lawyers are dealing with problems that aren’t just economic, she added. "People have always asked them, 'What do you do?' and they've said, 'I'm a lawyer,'" she told the NLJ. "When they lose that role in life, it's pretty confusing."

ABA Journal, Law New Now


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