SJC Steering Committee on Lawyer Well-Being Releases Report

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Supreme Judicial Court released the final report of its Steering Committee on Lawyer Well-Being on Thursday, July 18. It includes input from the Massachusetts Bar Association and others from around the legal community. The full report is available on the SJC’s website.

"We are extremely grateful to the Steering Committee members for their thoughtful work and comprehensive analysis," said Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants. "The SJC will carefully study the recommendations the Steering Committee has provided in its report and develop a plan of action to set this important work in motion." 

The SJC established the Steering Committee in September 2018 to explore and make recommendations regarding the state of lawyer well-being in the Commonwealth, following the publication in August 2017 of the Report of the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, which found, based on nationwide surveys of practicing lawyers, judges, and law students, that many “are struggling with serious physical and mental health issues that are exacerbated, if not caused, by the way that law is practiced today.”

The Steering Committee’s report identifies the major issues having a negative impact on well-being in the legal profession, including the stigma associated with mental health and substance use disorders, the pace of work, financial pressures, court deadlines and courtroom dynamics, alienation resulting from a lack of diversity and inclusiveness, isolation, secondary trauma from the nature of lawyers’ work, and incivility.

It recommends several specific actions to address these issues, starting with the establishment of a permanent SJC Standing Committee on Lawyer Well-Being to continue exploring ways to improve well-being in the profession. The report includes recommendations for trial and appellate courts, as well as other public entities, such as the Board of Bar Overseers, Board of Bar Examiners, Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. It also urges other segments of the legal community, including bar associations, and public and private employers, to take their own actions to enhance well-being.

MBA Vice President Denise I. Murphy served as the MBA representative on the SJC’s Steering Committee. She previewed the Steering Committee’s work at the MBA’s May 2019 House of Delegates Meeting, where she also thanked members of the MBA’s Subcommittee on Attorney Well Being, including Alice B. Braunstein, Andrew R. Ferguson, Deborah A. Mason, Michael E. Mone Jr., Michael B. Ready and Richard J. Sweeney.  The MBA subcommittee’s recommendations are cited throughout the final report and also included among the appendices.