Lawyer Wellbeing as a Crisis of the Profession
43 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2019 Last revised: 2 Mar 2020
Date Written: July 1, 2019
This Essay explores the implications of lawyer wellbeing for the health of the legal profession. To date, the movement to improve lawyer wellbeing has been largely propelled by the need to address the negative consequences of lawyers’ poor mental health for lawyers as individuals, as well as for their clients, their employers and society. Drawing on recent studies on lawyers’ unfulfilled psychological needs, however, we propose that the conditions that give rise to lawyers’ poor mental health also reflect divergence from our ideals of the lawyer as a professional and the law as a profession. Particular facets of lawyer suffering—debilitating self-doubt, lack of autonomy, and a diminished sense of connectedness to others—reveal wellness as an issue that sits at the intersection of other fault lines within the profession. Fully addressing lawyer wellbeing thus requires holistic reconsideration of the opportunities, priorities, and values that shape modern legal practice.
Keywords: lawyer wellness, civility, professional independence, competence, autonomy, self-determination theory
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