Lots of Lawyers Are Miserable

June 19, 2018

What do attorneys need in order to thrive? There are many answers to this question, but based on recent surveys of law students and practicing lawyers, a large portion of the legal community is not getting the things it needs to thrive, or even to maintain basic mental health. Substance abuse, anxiety and depression, and suicide are much more common in lawyers than in the general population, and the ABA and other industry organizations are rightly committed to understanding why and how the legal culture should change in order to better support lawyers’ well-being.

What’s clear is that no single intervention will repair all the factors that are causing so much suffering. Policies that encourage better work-life balance, de-emphasize the role of alcohol at social functions, and create more humane methods for determining compensation are a great start. But so far much of the coverage on lawyer well-being has missed a key piece of the puzzle: communications and public relations.

Wait—public relations can make a difference in lawyer well-being?

Yes. Communication-savvy firm leaders understand that PR, which certainly serves an outward-facing purpose—to spread the word about what your firm can do for clients—also serves a deeply important internal purpose: celebrating and lifting up the achievements of your lawyers. For many lawyers, becoming partner coincides with a major shift in job expectations. After years of being praised as diligent workhorses and researchers willing to toil away among the herd of their peers, lawyers are suddenly required to set themselves apart, become thought leaders and experts, as well as savvy sales people, in order to build their practice. The stress that comes with these new expectations—most of which they’ve received no preparation for—is enormous. It’s no surprise that the anxiety over how to achieve these goals has dire consequences for mental health.  

But the good news is that firm leadership can support its partners through this transition by connecting them with internal and external communications professionals who understand how to build a brand and position lawyers in today’s market. Quality, industry-specific PR helps lawyers build their confidence, articulate their skills and expertise, identify channels for introducing their practice to potential clients, and execute a communications strategy that will produce results.