Wellness in the Legal Profession: Addressing the Issues Created in Law School That Spill Over Into Practice
Assita Toure received her J.D. from Stetson University College of Law with a concentration in Social Justice Advocacy. She was the 2018-19 President of the Black Law Students Association. She earned a B.A. in Political Science from the University of South Florida with a minor in Criminology. Ms. Toure was part of the Pilot Program Class of 2019 of the Journey to Esquire: Scholarship & Leadership Program. She currently practices law as part of the 13th Judicial Circuit's Office of the Public Defender in Tampa, Florida. Visit her LinkedIn page for more information.
I. Introduction Over the past few years, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of lawyers who have substance abuse issues. Numerous bar associations throughout the country have initiated conversations about these rates. Still, the actions they have taken have not done much to cure these problems among members of the profession. In 2016, the American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation published their study involving nearly 13,000 practicing lawyers. It found that between 21 and 36 percent of lawyers qualified as problem drinkers and that approximately 28 percent, 19 percent, and 23 percent, respectively, were struggling with some level of depression, anxiety, and stress. The most alarming part of this study, however, its finding that younger lawyers in their first ten years of practice had the highest rates of drinking and depression throughout the profession. In this article, I will address the need for wellness initiatives in law schools to help law students find healthier wellness and coping mechanisms before they enter into the legal profession.
II. The Issue As a law student, I experienced the ease with which I formed poor habits. I have also seen how they can spill over into law practice. The entire process of law school is stressful; and poor wellness habits begin to form at the outset of our 1L year. The first year of law school is an experience that only those who have been through it can understand. There is pressure to comprehend and digest the assigned material, cold-call anxiety, stress from the overall competitive atmosphere, all combined with issues students may already face in their personal lives. The aggregation of all these factors prove difficult, even for those who come to law school with healthy wellness habits.
Within the first year, students pick up unhealthy habits- such as sleep deprivation- to keep up with the competition and maintain class rank. These unhealthy habits often result in an overall negative mental state that many students feel they lack resources with which to cope. Students experiment with alcohol and other illegal substances to relax, and these coping mechanisms quickly become habits or addictions.
Fifteen law schools and over 3,300 law students participated in the Survey of Law Student Well-Being, which released it results in 2016. It found the following: "17 percent [of students] experienced some level of depression, 14 percent experienced severe anxiety, 23 percent had mild or moderate anxiety, and six percent reported serious suicidal thoughts in the past year. As to alcohol use, 43 percent reported binge drinking at least once in the prior two weeks, and nearly one-quarter (22 percent) reported binge-drinking two or more times during that period. One-quarter fell into the category of being at risk for alcoholism for which further screening was recommended.” These statistics make it very clear that there is a significant problem with the way law students deal with stress and shed light on the growing need for wellness in law school programs.
One of the most worrisome aspects about the rates of illness listed above is many students, aware of the issues they have developed, refuse to seek help to address them. The study found that “42% of students needed help for poor mental health but only about half sought it out.” Some of the reasons for this reluctance to seek help is the perception of a lack of confidentiality and an overall concern that seeking help will harm their chances of practicing law.
Law school is hard work, and students who go through the process do not want to out bar admission at risk, so they ignore the clear signs of their need for help. Other factors cited by the students as discouragement from seeking help included: job or academic status, social stigmas, privacy concerns, lack of time, and the belief that they can handle the issues on their own. Students’ overall reluctance to seek help may be one factor explaining why law student wellness has not changed significantly since the last student survey of these issues from the 1990s.
Analysis of the statistics described above makes it easy to see why there is such an overall issue with mental illness in the legal profession. While bar initiated wellness programs are still essential, it is time to shift focus to the way students develop those habits in law school. A study conducted on lawyer wellness by Lawrence S. Krieger and Kennon M. Sheldon provides the statistical analysis to confirm that problems with mental health begin in law school and further supports the need to create solutions that start in law school. Starting at the source is crucial as it is the best way to prevent the creation of issues that are seemingly beginning before students even reach the profession. Promoting wellness in law school is the best way to give future attorneys the necessary skills that they will need to cope with the many stressors that come with the practice of law.
III. Solutions Initiatives to increase wellness in law school should not be limited to enhancing student resilience and detecting the disorders that exist. Identifying the source of the problems that may stem from organizational practices and assessing changes that will support student wellness should form the basis of law school wellness initiatives. If legal educators continue to ignore the stressors associated with law school, their inaction may suppress the overall learning capacity of students and intensify mental illness.  Based on a solution-oriented mindset, law schools can address these issues proactively.
One of the first solutions law schools can implement is hiring at least two professional onsite counselors. This proposal provides students a readily accessible resource: confidential talk therapy with a mental health professional about any issues, personal or professional. It also provides access to counseling to students who have no other resource. Two onsite counselors will meet the tremendous need in law school campuses. Many students want the opportunity to speak with a counselor. But they get discouraged with long wait times and limited appointment slots. Ensuring that there are adequate resources, for the students who choose to get help, addresses the issue of access.
Because many students recognize that they have an issue but do not seek help. Thus, law schools should implement a mandatory course on wellbeing during the 1L year. In this course, students can not only get information about the rates of alcohol and substance abuse for law students, but also where they can gain some advice on how to deal with the challenges in law school. To support a program like this, law schools should train their professors in courses as well so that they can learn how to relate and help their students with mental health and substance abuse issues. The two onsite mental health professionals can also teach these courses. A program like this will stress to students the importance of keeping up with their health and wellbeing and give them insight into the negative consequences of ignoring their mental health. The training that professors get will provide them with the tools to help students after their 1L year as well.
The last and more obvious suggestion is for law schools to discourage or eliminate alcohol-centered events altogether. Showing students that it is possible to network without alcohol consumption is very important. Many of the social events sponsored by law schools have free alcoholic drinks offered at unlimited amounts, aka “open bar.” This tradition of drinking alcohol during networking events should be carefully examined. Law schools can model for their students positive steps to address the increasing rates of alcohol abuse by law students. It is equally important that law schools make a formal statement to their students that they have chosen to discourage alcohol intake at school events to encourage health. Transparency is paramount. If students see that the law school takes the issue seriously, then they will be more likely to do so as well.
IV. Conclusion Wellness in the legal profession has been a hot topic recently, but an area that needs more attention is law schools. Ensuring that the future generation of lawyers knows about the high risks of alcohol and substance abuse of those in practice is critical. But equally as important is giving students the resources necessary to help them maintain their wellness. Many attorneys who have alcohol and substance issues formed these habits in law school. If we are able to help students while they are still in law school, we will be able to decrease the rates of abuse in the profession. We can help students in law school by encouraging them to seek help.
Recently, the Florida Bar's Young Lawyer Division launched the #StigmaFreeYLD campaign to remove the stigma that comes with seeking help for mental health and abuse issues among lawyers. Also, the newer bar application, which was effective on November 1st, 2019, encourages applicants to seek help for problems with mental health and substance abuse and also notes that seeking help will not hurt their application. Being a lawyer is tough, and if we can be proactive in our approach to deal with it before there is an issue, we can help so many more people.
 P. R. Krill, R. Johnson, & L. Albert, The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorneys, 10 J. ADDICTION MED. 46 (2016).
 J. M. Organ, D. Jaffe, & K. Bender, Suffering in Silence: The Survey of Law Student Well-Being and the Reluctance of Law Students to Seek Help for Substance Use and Mental Health Concerns, 66 J. LEGAL EDUC. 116 (2016).
Benefits of Using Social Media for Your Law Business
By Abigail Dean on December 13th, 2019
Social media has become increasingly popular as a marketing tool. It is the means by which many businesses obtain clients and continually grow their businesses in the market today. Many law firms recognize the advantages that social media brings to their firms and have joined the trend in marketing online. However, many law firms are still hesitant to embrace and incorporate social media into their business marketing plans due to concerns about client confidentiality. Other firms are hesitant because they are uncertain as to how marketing on social media will be beneficial to their firms. Law firms who strive to overcome these concerns are rewarded with growth in both their clientele and businesses overall. Here are some of the ways that social media can provide tremendous benefits to your firm.
Increase Brand Awareness Brand awareness is among the top reasons as to why many businesses are using social media platforms to market. In today’s world, when people need a certain service or product, they immediately go online to research information about these different products and services. Having a social media presence will increase people’s awareness as to your brand and your message as a law firm.
Attract Prospective Clients Social media has become a great tool in which law firms not only market their services but it has also become a great means by which many law firms bring in new clients and grow their businesses as a whole.
Establish Thought Leadership Social media is an excellent way to showcase attorneys' expertise and share valuable information to clients. Posting insightful information about different areas of the law that you practice can also lead to attracting new prospective clients. This will also help to improve the credibility of your firm by demonstrating legal knowledge.
Engage your target audience If your firm establishes an online presence through blog posts, YouTube videos, online magazines, or any other type of informational online content, it will be extremely beneficial to your firm. Having a presence on these platforms will help your firm to engage with prospective clients and to provide them with answers to their questions, give them information about different topics, and help them resolve certain issues.
Improve your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Having a strong social media presence on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter can help improve your firms ranking in the primary search engines, like Google. This optimization will help to increase traffic not only to your social media accounts but also to your website. It will also help to improve brand awareness of your firm because it will improve your online visibility.
Conclusion The list provided in this article is only a small portion of the many benefits that using social media can provide to your firm. If your firm strives to step into the world of social media marketing, then you will have the opportunity to grow your businesses in ways that you could have never imagined.
The Podcast Trailer is Live!
Journey to Esquire; The Podcast's trailer episode is live. We are currently available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor.fm, Podbean, iHeart Radio, and Google Play. More distribution channels will follow. Listen to the trailer here: https://anchor.fm/journey-to-esquire. New episodes will be released in January 2020. Stay tuned!
Donate to Our Scholarship Fund!
We are fundraising for the Scholarship Fund, Every little bit counts. Make your tax-deductible gift today. Visit our donations page to contribute.
I recently attended an event called Staying in the Game: Inclusion without Boundaries organized by the Tampa Bay Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. Like every other time I have attended these great events, I learned something new. A judge,while moderating a panel discussion, discussed balancing work and life in a way I have never heard before. She talked about juggling glass and rubber balls, and described a specific incident where she appeared to have it altogether, but actually did not on that day.
The Juggle I looked up the phrase and found that Bryan Dyson, then the President and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, delivered a commencement speech at Georgia Tech. His insight is as valuable today as it was then.
"Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them - work, family, health, friends, and spirit - and you're keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls - family, health, friends, and spirit - are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life."
Using Time Effectively This visualization exercise is a great analogy for using your time effectively. Sure, we think we are “managing” our time. But the truth is, time comes and goes, no matter what we choose to do with our day. We actually have no control over it, only how we experience time. We sit at work doing boring and tedious task, time moves slowly and it feels like five o’clock will never arrive. We go to a milestone event for a child, like a pre-Kindergarten graduation (which I recently attended for my son), and we feel like time is flying, where did it go? So we must be mindful to use our time wisely.
1. Rubber Balls vs. Glass Balls The glass balls represent those things we should spend most of our thinking, planning and doing time. The rubber balls represent those things we would like to do but if we let them go, we can recover, because they bounce back. What are the glass balls in your life? Those precious things without which life is less bearable, loving and devoid of joy? Is it your health, spirituality, love, affection, contribution to others, growth in mind and body? It will vary from person to person, and even for the same person in different phases of one's life.
Identify them early, before they get cracks in them and are more likely to shatter. And ask for help! As another speaker at the event, who is a quadriplegic who overcame lack of access to basic resources to get through his day growing up stated, you must humble yourself, and learn how to ask for what you need. You’ll be surprised at how many people are willing to help.
1. All Glass is Destructible The heavier the glass is, the more pieces into which it will shatter. Some of those glass balls are thinner and more fragile than others and will shatter into a million little pieces if dropped (think of your child as a newborn). While others, i.e. more tempered glass may break in large chunks, or create a spider web like pattern but maintain their integrity and can get fixed (think of a toddler constantly falling and getting injured but recovering quickly). But all glass is destructible.
Conclusion Inevitably, even very strong glass will break under too much force, and this breaking can release huge amounts of energy capable of causing serious damage and injury. So make sure you identify the glass balls in your juggle, keep them in the air, and let the rubber balls bounce where they may.
Meet our 2L Interns!
Our great 2L interns help us to run the program while learning how to run a nonprofit organization and developing the "power" skills needed to become lawyers who lead, mentor and inspire. Thanks to Ray Petty, Jr. (podcast), Damian Rape (modules), Abigail O. Dean (blog), and Shannon C. Walker (social media).
Journey To Esquire: The Podcast will be released in January 2020!
by Joseline J. Hardrick on November 22, 2019. So excited about the upcoming release of Journey to Esquire: The Podcast in January 2020! We have so many great guests, like John Schifino and Sarah Lahlou-Amine, Haley Moss, Daniela Mendez, Joann Grages Burnett and Jared Krukar. Stay tuned for details! Which logo do you like the best? Let us now on social media @JourneytoEsq.
Donate to our Scholarship Fund!
We are fundraising for the Scholarship Fund, every little bit counts. Make your tax-deductible gift today. Plus Facebook is matching donations on #GivingTuesday, thanks! Checkout the Facebook page for more information @JourneytoEsq or visit our donations page to contribute.
By now you've heard about the #MeToo Movement, and the consequences it has left behind in its wake. Several high profile men stand accused of some form of inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature. Some have withstood the accusations, others have accepted and admitted them, still others continue to deny any wrongdoing. But one consequence can have long standing negative effects on the growth of professional women, and that is the fear some men feel that prevents or hinders their ability to mentor women in the workplace.
Survey Monkey and LeanIn.org conducted a survey that found that 60% of those surveyed hesitate to commit to alone time with female colleagues, particularly outside of work. It also found that “[a] full 60% of male managers say they are uncomfortable engaging in common workplace interactions with women, including mentoring, socializing, and having one-on-one meetings—up 14 percentage points from last year.” Further, as Forbes noted in a recent article, “the new trend of men playing it safe around women comes at a time when the number of female chief executives is falling, and when progress toward increasing gender equity in upper management appears to have stalled.”
How do we continue to train up students, men, and women, to become lawyers who lead mentor and inspire, with this trend?
As the survey noted, “[r]eal solutions are possible, and companies are moving in the right direction.” The strategies include law firms, in-house counsel offices, government agencies and other traditional legal employers addressing the issue head on, amending workplace interaction policies and assuring employees and managers that they encourage mentoring in all its forms. For more ideas check out Brad Johnson and David Smith’s Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women. If your organization wants to start a mentoring program, here’s a great survey template to start assessing the needs and desires of your team. And SurveyMonkey offers free Diversity and Inclusion surveys to guide the process. Happy mentoring!
Meet the Journey to Esquire: Scholarship & Leadership Program Class of 2020
From Stetson University College of Law: Justin Bell, Forest Sutton, Ana Lleonart
From WMU- Cooley Law School - Marcia Frith, Adriana Laforest, Kishnee Theus
Congratulations to the new scholars of our Journey to Esquire: Scholarship & Leadership Program!
Guest Speaker Highlights!
Special thanks to our guest speakers! In these past weeks, we have had the opportunity to host guest speakers at both our Lawyer Wellness and Bar Prep Modules. At our Bar Prep Module, we hosted Jemima Pierrie Zetrenne, who is both a Journey to Esquire Program alum and a WMU-Cooley Law School alum. She shared some very beneficial tips on how to approach studying for the bar exam with our students. At our Lawyer Wellness Module, we hosted Mandi Clay of Three Thirteen Law and Sarah Lahlou-Amine of Banker Lopez Gassler, who both gave a lot of wisdom and insight as to wellness.
Thank you to our “JD” Level Sponsors:
U.S. District Courts: Middle District of Florida Bench Bar Fund
Agape Christian Bar Preparation Services, Inc.
Diversity Access Pipeline, Inc. PO Box 173044, Tampa, FL 33672
Mentoring Millennials Creating Lawyers Who Lead, Mentor, and Inspire
by Joseline J. Hardrick on September 27th, 2019.
“None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody—a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony, or a few nuns—bent down and helped us pick up our boots.” —Thurgood Marshall
This quote references the popular American ideology that individuals should “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” as a way to improve their lot in life. But, as Justice Thurgood Marshall explicitly acknowledges, everyone needs help maneuvering the maze that is life and career, even U.S. Supreme Court justices.
I have had several mentors throughout my life; they have included teachers, classmates, and colleagues. I entered into many of these relationships through formal mentoring programs created by local and national voluntary bar associations and student organizations. I have also found mentors in less formal ways. I had both types at my first job out of law school. I was assigned a mentor, who gave very good advice. Unfortunately, much of the meaning was lost in translation as I struggled to understand the office politics. My informal mentor helped to fill in the gaps. We shared a similar background, and, as I would find out as our relationship developed, similar struggles. She was skilled at translating the office lingo and helped me understand the unwritten rules of the office.
I’ve come to realize that generational differences can be quite beneficial when it comes to mentoring. Generation Xers and baby boomers have a lot of great advice to offer to millennials—and millennials can teach the older generations a few things as well.
Millennials now make up the largest segment of the workforce, according to the Pew Research Center. Pew defines millennials as those born between 1981 and 1997, Generation X as those born between 1965 and 1980, and baby boomers as those born between 1946 and 1964.
“Millennial” connotes youth in all of its idealistic, impatient, splendid glory. This generation of Americans grew up with access to numerous media channels, including cable television and the internet. They came of age with relative peace and witnessed several historic events, including the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the November 8, 2008, election of the first black president of the United States. They are also the first generation to grow up with ready access to advanced electronics, especially the smartphone.
However, many of them graduated from college and graduate school at a time when job creation and hiring were on the decline. The housing bubble burst in the last quarter of 2008, and many of them had several thousands of dollars in educational debt and no well-paying job to show for it. They lived through the Great Recession, in which they not only struggled to find employment, but also watched their family members and friends lose jobs, promotion opportunities, businesses, and retirement accounts. These experiences shaped their realities. Many of the experiences gave millennials the sense that everything was possible, easily achievable, and instant! Other experiences may have given the impression that hard work and loyalty did not pay off after all. Despite perceived shortcomings, millennials tend to be optimistic, frugal, and much more educated than previous generations.
As such, the old mentoring models will not work well with millennials. For example, a more senior attorney’s experience and generic seniority are unlikely to impress a millennial. Millennials are looking for innovation and disruption of the legal industry. They seek a high quality of life, not just a high income, and are not willing to toil away for long hours in the hopes of getting a benefit many years in the future. They like immediate results and will work hard to get them.
Overall, millennials are very entrepreneurial, well-connected socially, and adept at using technology to obtain clients and practice law. They are also skeptical of the traditional rules and are not generally interested in the “one size fits all” promotion tracks offered at traditional law firms, corporations, and government agencies. They are willing to try new ways to grow business, earn money, obtain experience, and solve problems. And they crave flexibility, ownership, and meaning in their work.
Many employers in the legal industry agree that they have to approach millennials differently to get the high-quality work, commitment, and longevity to which they are accustomed. Therefore, mentors should communicate to millennials that participating in a mentoring relationship provides mutual benefits now and later. Experienced attorneys need to approach millennials in a way that exhibits flexibility to create productive and meaningful mentoring relationships. The following is a discussion of models and guidelines for mentoring millennials.
Formal Mentoring Formal mentoring programs are typically found through an employer, bar associations, or other organized groups. These programs typically assign a mentee to a more experienced attorney, such as a senior associate or partner. The programs hold events and specific activities for the participants and may provide formal guidance to assist with developing the relationship. Other programs are formal only to the extent that they match participants and then allow them to proceed as desired.
Formal mentoring programs have many benefits. They allow someone who is new to the industry or community to meet others relatively quickly, and they can match participants based on practice area or specific need. The drawback can be that the participants can lack chemistry. In that case, it is fine for either participant to end the relationship.
Informal Mentoring Informal mentoring happens more organically. As lawyers get to know people through their employer or participation in bar associations and volunteer activities, they will instinctively start to recognize a personality match with someone more experienced. The potential mentee can either approach someone and ask for formal mentoring, reach out to that person on occasion, or seek advice as needed without an official mentoring relationship. Potential mentors can do the same.
Ideal Roles and Attributes for Mentors and Mentees Mentors should be confident, transparent, available, and flexible. They should provide coaching and counseling. The mentors’ job is not necessarily to shape mentees into a specific image, but to allow mentees to grow and mature on their own path.
Mentees should be coachable and appreciative of the mentors’ time and energy. They should also take initiative in reaching out to mentors and prepare for meetings in advance. Mentees should take time to understand themselves better, including identifying strengths and weaknesses, so as to get the full benefit of the advice offered from more seasoned lawyers. Mentees should also be flexible. They should not give up too quickly if their mentors do not respond right away to a call or email, as seasoned lawyers are typically much busier than new attorneys and law students. Both mentors and mentees should be able to communicate well, have a commitment to the mentoring relationship, and be willing to commit the time to grow the relationship and make it beneficial to all parties involved.
Specific Tips for Mentoring Millennials Virtual mentoring is a great option for millennials. In virtual mentorships, mentees should take note of the virtual mentors’ verbal abilities, body language, leadership style, and any other traits that can be modeled by observation.
Millennials will also enjoy reverse mentoring because it increases their contribution and level of importance in the relationship. They want to contribute to every relationship in a significant way. Providing important feedback that is not only embraced, but implemented and acknowledged in some way, will go a long way to increasing a millennial’s commitment.
Mentors should help millennials find meaning in the practice of law by pointing them to pro bono cases and career tracks that may be more fulfilling and in line with their values. They should give structured and regular feedback; criticism and encouragement are equally important. Mentors should embrace millennials’ love of technology by communicating quick messages through texts and social media platforms to keep in touch. Mentors must be flexible and help millennials brainstorm ideas on how to create flexibility at work. Millennials want to work from home or have less-traditional hours. Mentors need to show them how to achieve that goal while still demonstrating a strong work ethic and producing results for their employers and clients.
Start a Mentoring Relationship Today If you are interested in mentoring, or have done it in the past and are looking to start a new mentoring relationship, you should sign up for the mentoring program in your office, Inn of Court, or local bar association—or start one of your own. Reach out to law students and new attorneys and look for opportunities to provide helpful feedback. A good potential mentee may remind you of your younger self in need of guidance and encouragement or be someone very different from you who shows a lot of potential but needs help “translating” the legal culture. Review your professional relationships and see if there is someone who could use your expertise. Take colleagues out to lunch and ask them some probing questions. The opportunities for potential mentors to develop deeper relationships with acquaintances and colleagues are many.
For more mentoring resources visit the National Legal Mentoring Consortium. This article originally appeared in The Bencher Magazine January/February 2018 edition and is reprinted here with permission.
Our Journey to Esquire : Scholarship & Leadership Program Began This Month!
Our Scholarship & Leadership Program began this month. However, we have a new name and logo to reflect our growing mission and impact. "Journey to Esquire: Scholarship & Leadership Program" captures the work we are doing with law students to move beyond diversity and inclusion and into training and developing diverse law students who will become lawyers who lead, mentor, and inspire. We want to welcome all of our new students and board members who will be participating in the program this year. We look forward to a year of networking with attorneys, acquiring new skills, and building life-long relationships.
Sponsorship Opportunities Sponsorship Opportunities are still available. Please review our sponsorship matrix to learn about sponsorship and partnership opportunities available through Journey to Esquire to feed your pipeline with energetic students who want to lead, mentor and inspire.
Like the new name and logo? Look out for us on social media @JourneytoEsq.