News

Lawyers Get No Mental Health Boost from Big Bucks, Study Shows

The mental health boost that usually comes with higher incomes is not making its way to lawyers in the U.S. and Canada, a new study finds. The ABA Journal reports that the study shows higher-status lawyers in both countries have more symptoms of depression than peers in the public sector and are no better off in terms of health. The study found that the larger the firm and the more high-paying the job, the more likely a lawyer was to have depressive symptoms. Overwork and work-life conflict were cited as reasons.

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New Journal: Divorce Law, Startling Stats on Addiction

The September Tennessee Bar Journal covers updates in divorce law, with details from B.J. Strickland about recent federal actions impacting military service members. Also, Family Matters columnists Marlene Eskind Moses and Ben Russ explain 2017 modifications to state child support laws. In perhaps one of the most important subjects, President Lucian Pera writes about recent studies showing how the legal profession has a much higher rate for addiction than other professions – and that those in the first 10 years of practice are most at risk. Pera offers startling statistics and helpful resources, suggesting that lawyers should be aware of warning signs and “if you see something, say something.”

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ABA Offers New Recommendations for Attorney Well-Being

A coalition of groups, including the American Bar Association Commission of Lawyer Assistance Programs, released a comprehensive report yesterday aimed at addressing the problem of substance use and mental health disorders of lawyers. The report includes recommendations on five central themes: identifying stakeholders and the role each can play in reducing the level of toxicity in the legal profession; eliminating the stigma associated with help-seeking behaviors; emphasizing that well-being is an indispensable part of a lawyer’s duty of competence; educating lawyers, judges and law students on lawyer well-being issues; and taking steps to change how law is practiced and how lawyers are regulated to instill greater well-being in the profession.
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Addiction, Mental Health Problems Plague Lawyers, Investigation Finds

A woman’s search for the cause of her ex-husband’s addictions — which eventually led to his death — prompted a deep dive into the addiction and mental health problems of attorneys in a New York Times investigation. The pressure and work culture of law firms, as well as the belief that “lawyers don’t go to rehab,” are all reasons a lot of lawyers suffer from addiction, the newspaper reports, noting that the primary subject of the article spent some of his last moments alive on a conference call, and among the attorneys who attended his funeral, many continued working right through the service, writing emails on their phones during the eulogy. 
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Vote for Your Favorite Book, Enter Your Fiction

Three finalists have been chosen for the seventh annual Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, and you can weigh in on which book should win. The prize was authorized by the late Harper Lee, and established in 2011 by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. Vote for your favorite among Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult, Gone Again by James Grippando, or The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore. While you are in book mode, send in your entry to the Tennessee Bar Journal's First Annual Fiction Competition. The deadline is May 31, so get to writing!

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Services Thursday for Lawyer, Artist Kaaren Engel

A celebration of the life of Kaaren Hirschowitz Engel, who died last week, will be Thursday at East Park, 700 Woodland St., Nashville, from 2 to 4 p.m. She was 55. A graduate of Emory University Law School, Engel practiced corporate health law before focusing her career on creative ventures. She was an artist and author, who practiced and taught yoga and meditation. Learn more about her in this recent profile from Nashville Arts Magazine.

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Memphis Law Brings Counselor to Downtown Campus

Starting this week, Dr. Kim Collins with the University of Memphis Counseling Center will provide downtown counseling services to law students on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The school reports that bringing a counselor to the law school has been a multi-year collaboration among law students and administrators. Initial appointments are available by calling the counseling center at 901-678-2068.

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Chattanooga Attorney Ordered to Undergo Mental Health Evaluation

After taking the witness stand and claiming “a whole lot of attorneys are out to hurt me,” Chattanooga lawyer Matthew Jack Fitzharris was deemed not competent to stand trial, the Times Free Press reports. Fitzharris was arrested in July for breaking into an elderly couple’s house and threatening to kill them. On the stand, he said an attorney tapped his phone, killed his close personal assistant, and killed the wife of a man he was representing. He also accused several Chattanooga attorneys and judges of conspiring against him. The Georgia court ordered him to complete a 90-day evaluation at a mental health facility. Until that review is finished, he will not be forced to answer any charge.

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Just Breathe: ‘Journal’ Shows Ways to Combat Stresses of Lawyering

A recent study shows more damning news on how lawyers are handling the pressures of the profession – more than a third of lawyers qualified as “problem drinkers” and about a quarter reported experiencing depression, anxiety or stress. These are higher rates than documented in earlier studies and more than in other professions. This issue of the Journal looks at ways some lawyers have beat that trend through mindfulness and meditation – and how you can, too. Plus, our book review of The Anxious Lawyer gives insight into the topic. Also in this issue, TBA President Jason Long writes about the necessary and important steps to embracing diversity. Read the September issue.

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Court Entities Publish Special Well-Being Report

The Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility has published a special issue of its Board Notes newsletter to highlight the prevalence of substance abuse and mental health disorders among attorneys. The special issue is published in partnership with Tennessee's Lawyers Assistance Program (TLAP), Board of Law Examiners and Commission on Continuing Legal Education. In an opening message, Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins asks lawyers to consider the comprehensive scientific evidence of these issues as a wakeup call and call to action.

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Attorney Blogger: '11 Ways Lawyers are Nuts'

“Once you’re a lawyer, being normal and mentally stable is impossible,” according to Tampa attorney and blogger Jennifer Burby. On her blog, Burby rounds up 11 ways being an attorney makes you go “irrevocably crazy,” with examples like “Conversations Become Interrogations” and “Everyone Wants Free Advice.” 

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Attorney Blogger: '11 Ways Lawyers are Nuts'

“Once you’re a lawyer, being normal and mentally stable is impossible,” according to Tampa attorney and blogger Jennifer Burby. On her blog, Burby rounds up 11 ways being an attorney makes you go “irrevocably crazy,” with examples like “Conversations Become Interrogations” and “Everyone Wants Free Advice.” 

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Big Law Firm Creates Gender-Neutral Maternity Leave

Winston & Strawn LLP, an international law firm based in Chicago, announced earlier this week that the firm is creating a gender-neutral parental leave policy. The Huffington Post reports the policy includes 20 weeks of paid parental leave for associates and of counsel attorneys. But Vivia Chen, a senior columnist at The American Lawyer, says the changes “fall somewhere short of the policies offered in other professions.”

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Free Mental Health Screening for Law Students

It’s #MentalHealthDay, and Screening for Mental Health has partnered with the Dave Nee Foundation to provide free mental health screenings for law students. Last year, 72 percent of law students who took the screening scored positive for symptoms consistent with depression. The 3-5 min survey, shared by the ABA For Law Students, is available for a few weeks. 

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Law School Debt, Anxiety Rising

Almost 70 percent of law students borrowing a hefty amount expect to graduate owing more than $120,000 in student loans, an amount that is up from 2011. A survey of 80 campuses in the annual Law School Survey of Student Engagement found that the increasing debt levels are contributing to increased stress and anxiety for law students. The survey also suggests, according to The National Law Journal (sub. req.), that minority students and those with lower LSAT scores are paying more than their white and Asian classmates and those with higher LSAT scores.

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Study: Substance Abuse, Mental Health Issues Plague Attorneys

A new study sheds light on the substantial levels of problem drinking and mental health issues plaguing attorneys, according to the American Bar Association. The national study, conducted by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and reported this week in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, found that rates of problem drinking increased as individuals spent more time in the legal profession. The study reports that 21 percent of licensed, employed attorneys qualify as problem drinkers and that 28 percent of attorneys struggle with some level of depression.

“Any way you look at it, this data is very alarming, and paints the picture of an unsustainable professional culture that’s harming too many people,” said Patrick R. Krill, lead author of the study. In Tennessee, help is available through the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program (TLAP). Learn more about how TLAP can help.

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Advice for Attorneys on Making and Keeping Resolutions

How can attorneys make and keep reasonable resolutions for their careers? The ABA Journal features a podcast (with transcript) with tips for making and keeping achievable goals. “The starting point often is: Where does my success come from and how can I do more of the same? You know, where did my best clients come from? Where are my best relationships?” Karen Kaplowitz, president of a business-development consulting firm, said.

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Most Lawyers are Introverts, Study Finds

The majority of lawyers are introverts, according to a study, and the ABA Journal says that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “Many lawyers spend a lot of time by themselves — reading, writing, thinking — compared to other jobs where the majority of the work is interacting. Introverts make good lawyers, especially for clients who want a thoughtful answer,” said Eva Wisnik, president of the firm that conducted the study.

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Book Signings, Readings Set for Phillips's New Book

Chattanooga lawyer John B. Phillips  will read from his first non-legal book, A Time To Be Born: Meditations on the Birth of a Child, on Nov. 6, at the Chattanooga WorkSpace, 302 E. 6th St., beginning at 5:30 p.m. A Nov. 12 event will run from 6 to 8 p.m. at Gallery 1401, 1478 Market St. Each meditation in the book, inspired by the births of his first two grandchildren, is based on a passage of scripture about pregnancy and childbirth and is accompanied by a piece of original art that complements and expands each meditation.

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TLAP, Rules Commission Issue Updated Rosters

The Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program (TLAP) and the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Advisory Commission on the Rules of Practice and Procedure have released updated rosters of their governing membership. See the current lists at the links above.

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Law Firms Nominated as Healthiest Employers

Three law firms have been selected as finalists for the Nashville Business Journal’s Healthiest Employers Award. Baker Donelson, Burr & Forman and Butler Snow are among 19 companies chosen by Indianapolis-based Healthiest Employers LLC. Winners will be announced during a health fair and luncheon on Aug. 18. See the full list of finalists.

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Lowest Paid Lawyers Report Greatest Happiness

A new study by Florida State University law professor Lawrence S. Krieger found that the factors most frequently associated with success in the legal field, such as a high income or a partner-track job at a prestigious firm, had almost no correlation with happiness and well being. However, the study found that lawyers in public-service jobs, who typically make less money, were most likely to report being happy. The survey of 6,200 lawyers also found that lawyers in public-service jobs drank less alcohol than their higher-income peers, and despite the large gap in affluence, the two groups were equally satisfied with their lives. The New York Times’ wellness blog reports on the study.

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Hooker Weighs in as Committee Considers 'Death with Dignity'

This summer, state lawmakers will gather to discuss the controversial issue of death with dignity and whether or not those with a terminal illness have the right to decide when to die. Now John Jay Hooker, who has been diagnosed with terminal melanoma, is championing this cause and fighting for the right to die with dignity. “I think if a person is suffering wants to leave this earth that the government’s got no business to tell them that they got to suffer and stay,” he told WKRN.

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New Members Named to TLAP Board

New appointments to the board of the Tennessee Lawyer Assistance Program (TLAP) have been made and will take office June 1. New members are Michael G. Derrick, Dr. Roland Gray, Mark Westlake and Cynthia Wyrick. Those being reappointed for the 2015-2016 bar year are Nancy Corley, Drew McElroy and Bruce Seidner. In addition, Circuit Court Judge Rhynette Hurd is being appointed to fill a vacancy. Four members are ineligible for reappointment and are stepping down. They are Andrew Branham, Cynthia Cheatham, James Cornelius and Peter Harris. The group must still appoint a vice-chair and secretary/treasurer for the upcoming year. Access the current roster.

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Profile: A Law Firm that Lets Partners be Parents

The Washington, D.C., area law firm, the Geller Law Group, is making news. The six-woman firm has a credo based on family-friendliness and flexibility. It does not even have a permanent office. A profile in the New York Times finds that the partners have a “near-evangelical determination" to prove that professionals can advance their careers while they remain fully present in their children’s lives.”

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