Well-being report finds high burnout rate among lawyers

Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023
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“Lawyer Well-Being in Massachusetts,” a comprehensive look at the mental state of the legal profession, is now available online. The nearly 60-page report from the nonpartisan and objective research organization NORC at the University of Chicago and Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Massachusetts (LCL) contains statistics on common forms of emotional distress among practicing attorneys and on contributing factors to professional wellness. 

NORC and LCL prepared the report after conducting a statewide survey of registered attorneys and convening two focus groups, with assistance from the Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Lawyer Well-Being. As part of their methodology, researchers examined how rates of depression, substance use, and other mental health challenges differed between demographic groups and practice areas within the legal community. 

Among the key findings of “Lawyer Well-Being” is the revelation that 77% of Massachusetts lawyers have experienced work-related burnout and nearly half of those respondents either left or contemplated leaving their employer or the profession altogether. While confirming the emotional strain of legal practice, the report also notes that 66% of lawyers expressed an overall sense of satisfaction with their lives — though that number is lower among marginalized groups, just as rates of anxiety and burnout are higher.

In addition, the report indicates that 42% of respondents have consumed unhealthy amounts of alcohol and that problem drinking is especially prevalent among non-disabled white male attorneys who range in age from 24-44 and earn more than $150,000 annually. Contrary to the general population, Massachusetts lawyers who identify as female are also more likely than their male counterparts to struggle with alcohol abuse.

Other findings in the report include the strong correlation between a supportive work environment and an enhanced quality of life and the detrimental effects of bias, harassment and discrimination on individual well-being. Lawyers from marginalized communities and those working in the public sector reported the highest instances of intolerance, with one in three respondents attributing the offending behavior to their colleagues or attorneys representing other parties. 

Despite the issues raised in the report, half of all attorneys who have struggled with their mental health or their substance use did not seek treatment because of stigma, time constraints and punitive concerns.

Click here to read the report.