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Saturday, April 12, 2014


I can recall when I first began to have problems in my own divorce.  At one point, I was calling around to speak to attorneys to find one who would be willing to work with me. Sometimes when I was calling around, I ended up having conversations with attorneys focusing on the many litigants who end up committing suicide.  I certainly believe that the subject of litigants and suicide might be one worth exploring. 

None of these attorneys mentioned that there is an issue in their own profession.  But, as my discussion in the first part of this report indicated, there are is a serious public health problem in connection to attorneys and their high rate of suicide.

Among the factors I mentioned involved in the high rate of suicide among attorneys is the drive to make money at all costs.  But in addition, another issue is that many attorneys are terribly overworked and overburdened.  On the website "Legal Cheek" one blogger put it this way, "The prevailing culture of 24/7 availability only makes matters worse.  And then there is the unwritten expectation that lawyers should put their work and firm first."
Another factor is personality.  According to journalist Deborah Cassens Weiss, "Personality characteristics often associated with lawyers, such as perfectionism and competitiveness, when combined with depression may  be contributing to a higher suicide rate in the legal profession." 

I noticed these qualities frequently when I worked as a temporary employee when I first arrived in Hartford in the late 1980s.  The attorneys I worked with were frequently very stressed out, very impatient and brusque, and unwilling to allow me any time to get oriented when I first arrived in their offices. 

In fact, I can recall that it was in an attorney's office that I had my first experience of actually calling my temp agency and asking them to "get me out of here right away!"  This attorney firm was criticizing my work even before I had a chance to walk from the front entrance over to the desk they had assigned me to. 

This was despite the fact that in those days I was highly skilled as an administrative assistant -- I was the fastest typist in my class, and I was also able to take stenographic dictation.  But it wasn't enough--I could tell within the first ten minutes. 

If attorneys have to work in such environments, and they aren't able to send out an S.O.S. to their supervisors, I can imagine how difficult it must be for them. 

Commentator Stuart Mauney also suggests that the problem is that the legal profession attracts pessimists.  As he put it, "Recent studies have shown that in all graduate school programs, in all professional fields except one, optimists outperform pessimists.  The one exception:  law school." 

He further noted, "Pessimism helps lawyers excel by making us skeptical of what our clients, our witnesses, opposing counsel, and judges tell us.  It helps us anticipate the worst and thus prepare for it."  I will say that people who are pessimistic are actually more realistic, or even more sane than the average, if you want to put it that way.  Even so, pessimism is bad for our mental health! 
Attorneys can also end up being socially isolated because they have argumentative and abrasive personalities that again, might make them successful in the courtroom, but also make them unpopular.  In general, Americans do not feel comfortable with intellectual exploration, critical thinking, or challenging ideas.  Instead, they value concensus and cooperation. 

America's homegrown promoter of this kind of harmonious  vision is Dale Carnegie of "How to Make Friends and Influence People" fame whose prime tenet was , "Don't Argue!"  Of course, if attorneys didn't argue, they couldn't earn a living!  

Has anyone watched the House of Commons in England confront the Prime Minister on television?  If you can, you should watch it sometime.  In these debates, representatives interrupt each other, they contradict each other, confront one another, and above all they challenge the Prime Minister directly and ask for immediate responses to the questions they pose.  If representatives don't get the kinds of answers they are looking for, they will call out the Prime Minister and each other on the flaws to their comments and demand better answers.  

This kind of direct confrontation and debate is very uncomfortable to most Americans.  Then look at attorneys and see that attorneys behave this way all the time!  It is their job to be this way!  

Unfortunately, however, annoying, irritating, demanding and challenging personalities simply do not play well in your average social situation, and for attorneys who cannot turn themselves off after court is over, this could lead to considerable social isolation. 
Further compounding the social isolation that might result purely based on personality, the practice of law has become increasingly isolated in recent years.  Some of this is the result of advances in technology which mean that attorneys can get a lot of their work done alone in their offices typing into a computer.  Thus, in an article published in the CT Law Tribune, one attorney, Frederic C. Ury wrote, "Unless you attend court on a regular basis or participate in bar association events, you no longer interact face-to-face with your fellow attorneys.  Instead, face-to-face has given way to Facebook, listservers, e-mail, text messaging and sometimes the antiquated telephone."
After reading this information, I have a better understanding of why the CT Bar Examiners are concerned about identifying those people who might have difficulties and seeking to monitor them.  However, it is always the spirit in which these tasks are done which counts.  It is one thing if you are seeking to undercut and stigmatize.  It is another thing to keep track so that you can intervene and be supportive if anything comes up and if you are trying to convey that help is available in time of need. 
On that note, for attorneys who need support here in CT there is a program known as Lawyers Concerned For Lawyers, which offers complete confidentiality.  

If you are interested in obtaining more information about this program, please click on the link below:

Online, I also took a look at another blog which I think would be helpful; see below:

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