Stress, drink, leave: An examination of gender-specific risk factors for mental health problems and attrition among licensed attorneys

Abstract

Rates of mental illness and heavy alcohol use are exceedingly high in the legal profession, while attrition among women has also been a longstanding problem. Work overcommitment, work-family conflict, permissiveness toward alcohol in the workplace, and the likelihood of promotion are all implicated but have yet to be systematically investigated. Data were collected from 2,863 lawyers randomly sampled from the California Lawyers Association and D.C. Bar to address this knowledge gap. Findings indicated that the prevalence and severity of depression, anxiety, stress, and risky/hazardous drinking were significantly higher among women. Further, one-quarter of all women contemplated leaving the profession due to mental health concerns, compared to 17% of men. Logistic models were conducted to identify workplace factors predictive of stress, risky drinking, and contemplating leaving the profession. Overcommitment and permissiveness toward alcohol at work were associated with the highest likelihood of stress and risky drinking (relative to all other predictors) for both men and women. However, women and men differed with respect to predictors of leaving the profession due to stress or mental health. For women, work-family conflict was associated with the highest likelihood of leaving, while overcommitment was the number one predictor of leaving for men. Mental health and gender disparities are significant problems in the legal profession, clearly requiring considerable and sustained attention.

Anker J, Krill PR (2021) Stress, drink, leave: An examination of gender-specific risk factors for mental health problems and attrition among licensed attorneys. PLoS ONE 16(5): e0250563.

Available on PLOS ONE. 

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Embedding Graduate Resilience into Legal Education for a Disrupted 21st Century

Abstract

A fundamental role of education in legal education is to ensure that graduates are adequately prepared for professional practice as lawyers. Notwithstanding this aim, it cannot be said that legal education holistically prepares graduates to cope with the complexities of the 21st Century which is characterised by significant change and disruption. Law schools have a key role in building resilience so that graduates can cope with change and disruption in their workplace and profession.

This paper commences with a critical review of the current context, scope and practice of resilience in higher education. Given its dynamic, multidimensional, context and relational nature, resilience has proven to be difficult to translate into effective educational strategies. Much of the work on resilience undertaken in higher education has focused on the provision of supports to students to transition into university and to cope within an academic setting. Narrow conceptions of resilience which focus on perseverance, as opposed to an adaptive and developmental construct, are context specific and likely to be short lived. Given the multidimensional nature of resilience, graduates may not necessarily be able to demonstrate resilience in their professions following graduation. Little is done to specifically build resilience following graduation. The general literature and practices associated with resilience in higher education fail to address how resilience can be enhanced for students after graduation so that they not only cope with the disruptions associated within their professions, but also transform their environments if they so desire.

Using legal education as a case study, the paper discusses how resilience can be enhanced for a disrupted and changing career in the legal profession following graduation. It is advanced that little has been written about how resilience can be enhanced to foster critical consciousness and social and personal transformation to enhance resilience following graduation. Concentrating on the centrality of critical reflection and dialogue, teaching and learning strategies which are grounded in critical and emancipatory pedagogies are suggested to incorporate in legal education as a means of building graduate resilience through social and personal transformation. Strategies and practices outlined in this paper are applicable to other professional degrees.

Susler, Ozlem and Babacan, Alperhan, Embedding Graduate Resilience into Legal Education for a Disrupted 21St Century (January 22, 2021). International Journal of Innovation, Creativity and Change, Volume 15, Issue 1, 2021,
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Understanding and Interpreting Law School Enrolment Data

Abstract

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has a long-standing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in legal education and in the legal profession. In line with its mission to promote quality, access, and equity in legal education, LSAC is providing a report, Understanding and Interpreting Law School Enrollment Data: A Focus on Race and Ethnicity, to help law schools, admission professionals, and other legal education stakeholders understand how we are measuring who is in the pipeline. The purpose of the report is to inform conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion in law school and recruitment efforts. The report outlines the history of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) data reporting standards, how these differ from LSAC data collection and reporting practices, and the social and cultural implications of different race and ethnicity data collection and reporting methods. The report includes examples of how the different methods affect conclusions that can be drawn from analyses of subgroup trends over time.

Bodamer, Elizabeth and Dustman, Kimberly and Langer, Debra and Walzer, Mark and Camilli, Gregory and Gallagher, Ann, Understanding and Interpreting Law School Enrollment Data (October 15, 2020).
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Lawyer Ethics for Innovation

Abstract

Law struggles to keep pace with innovation. Twenty-first century advancements like artificial intelligence, block chain, and data analytics are already in use by academic institutions, corporations, government entities, health care providers, and others but many questions remain about individual autonomy, identity, privacy, and security. Even as new laws address known threats, future technology developments and process improvements, fueled by consumer-demand and globalization, inevitably will present externalities that the legal community has yet to confront.

How do we design laws and systems to ensure accountability, equality, and transparency in this environment of rapid change? A solution can be found in a surprising source — the regulation of professional ethics. Lawyers have the capacity to play a critical role both in assessing the risks and benefits of innovation generally and also in deploying innovative tools to enhance the delivery of legal services. This Article is the first to articulate a formal obligation of ethical innovation as a component of professional discipline and licensing rules. This proposal comes at a time when the legal profession is increasingly immersed in innovation — whether measured by the number of “NewLaw” providers, exponentially increasing financial investment in legal tech, or by the American Bar Association’s 2020 Resolution supporting innovation to address the access-to-justice crisis.

Rather than taking a particular side in the debate over whether lawyers and judges should adopt innovations like artificial intelligence or machine learning, this Article acknowledges that technology advancements inevitably are part of modern society, including the practice of law, and advocates for reforms to professional conduct rules to protect individuals in the midst of innovation. This protection is especially warranted when innovation is forced amidst a moment of crisis, for example as seen when the 2020 coronavirus pandemic abruptly halted law practice in its traditional form, canceling office meetings and jury trials and other in‑person interactions. Some lawyers and courts were prepared, others were not. Some clients received the legal advice through virtual consultations or apps, and had their cases decided by judges via Zoom hearings, but many found themselves without the justice they needed. The lawyers and judges at the forefront of ethical innovation before the pandemic hit were the ones best able to serve their clients. Formalizing a duty to innovate as an ethical obligation will make the profession better prepared to serve the public in the future.

(Newman) Knake Jefferson, Renee, Lawyer Ethics for Innovation (April 20, 2021). 35 Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy 1 (2021), U of Houston Law Center No. 2021-A-7,
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Wellness and Law: Reforming Legal Education to Support Student Wellness

Abstract

No one goes to law school with the expectation that their mental health and overall well-being will be significantly compromised during those three years. But, for a substantial number of law students, it is. It does not have to be this way.

This is not a typical law review article. It cannot afford to be. Most law students begin law school as reasonably happy and well-adjusted people. We must ask, what is it about law school that contributes to the disproportionate decline in student wellness? The answer to that question is complex because many of the very factors that make good lawyers also contribute to their mental health challenges.

This paper contains a blueprint, borne out of experience, of how to reimagine legal education with a focus on wellness. This goes beyond a general call to action, but rather presents concrete actions that faculty, law administrators, and students themselves can take to effectively manage the stresses inherent in law school and the legal profession. These changes will be long-term and will profoundly impact the well-being of not only legal practitioners, but the very practice of law itself. There will be resistance, but making this transition is crucial. We know that when law students first enter law school their psychological profile is similar to that of the general public, but their depression rates increase drastically across three years of legal education. Lawyers have the dubious distinction of being the most frequently depressed professionals in the U.S., and the legal profession ranks among the highest in incidence of suicide by occupation.

Two recent and major events have exacerbated this already dire landscape of wellness dysfunction: COVID-19 and widespread protests associated with the quest for racial justice. For students who managed their addiction recovery or mental health challenges in part by having the structure and accountability of a classroom setting and nearby counseling services, social distancing threatens those means of coping. Then the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others ignited a wave protests that likely caused some law students to experience race-based and other types of trauma. The absence of a culture of wellness in law schools may lead law students to endure these added traumas in silence.

As other movements have found national and global recognition recently, it is time for a wellness crusade in legal education. Just as movements have galvanized the public to demand action on issues of racial injustice, gender equality, and climate change, so the legal profession must take steps to comprehensively address the wellness crisis spanning the lecture halls to practice. Just as America must be willing to undergo an honest reckoning and radical reforms in order to evolve into a more just and equitable society, law schools and the legal profession must undergo foundational changes in order to graduate healthy and whole students. The reforms outlined in this article not only reimagine the law school experience for thousands of law students, but they would, over time, lead to a qualitative change in the delivery of legal services themselves. The legal profession, indeed our lives, literally depend on it.

Jackson, Janet Thompson, Wellness and Law: Reforming Legal Education to Support Student Wellness (February 15, 2021). Howard Law Journal, Vol. 65, No. 1, 2021,

Available at SSRN

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An Appraisal of Professional Legal Ethics and Proper Conduct for Lawyers In Nigeria

Abstract

Members of the legal profession in Nigeria have an enormous responsibility to discharge, not only to their clients but also to the court, the profession, their professional colleagues, and the society at large. However, for some time in the recent past, both the Bench and the Bar have had cause to complain about the conduct of some legal practitioners in Nigeria. It is therefore not surprising that quite often, the public judges the legal profession by the standard of its erring members, hence the need to continue to highlight the various duties and responsibilities of the lawyer and the need for members of the Bar to be fully alive to these duties and responsibilities in order to check the falling ethical standard in the profession, be examples to the society in which they find themselves and ultimately promote the honour and nobility of the profession. Discipline at the bar is very essential. This is because offences, to which the police attach no significance when committed by a medical doctor, may be attended with humiliation and embarrassment when committed by a lawyer. Similarly, a simple act of breach of the law by an accountant, which may not be considered as anything, may form banner headlines in newspapers and magazines if committed by a lawyer. This only stresses the fact that society views lawyers as custodians of a high moral value and distinguished members of the society, whose conduct and activities should serve as a light to the rest of the society. To maintain this standard and meet the high expectation of the society on lawyer, the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners has been put in place to guide and regulate legal practice and the conduct of legal practitioners, especially with respect to their duties and responsibilities to their clients, the court, the profession and the society at large, and of course their rights and privileges. The Rules was made by the General Council of the Bar pursuant to the power conferred on it by section 12 (4) of the Legal Practitioners Act. This paper undertakes a general overview of professional legal ethics for legal practitioners in Nigeria as set out in the Rules of Professional Conduct as well as in the Legal Practitioners Act, Nigeria. Specifically, the paper highlights the general professional responsibility of legal practitioners, the duties of a Legal practitioner to his client, the court of law, the society, the state and the legal profession, as well as the rights and liabilities of legal practitioners in Nigeria. The paper concludes that while a lawyer should be persistent in his pursuit of a cause diligently and erudite in the mastery of the cause he serves, he must realize that his duty is much more than pleading the cause of his client in court or rendering services to him; the lawyer must be a bearer of light; he should be a leader in character and in learning, especially in view of the high expectations of members of society.

Udemezue, Sylvester, An Appraisal of Professional Legal Ethics and Proper Conduct for Lawyers In Nigeria (December 20, 2020).
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Lawtech: Levelling the Playing Field in Legal Services?

Abstract

The legal services market is commonly thought of as divided into two “hemispheres”– PeopleLaw and BigLaw. These segments represent, respectively, individuals and corporate clients. The last few decades have seen an increasing concentration of resources within the legal profession toward serving corporate clients, to the alleged detriment of consumer clients. At the same time, the costs of accessing legal representation exceed the financial resources of many ordinary citizens and small businesses, compromising their access to the legal system. We ask: will the adoption of new digital technologies lead to a levelling of the playing field between the PeopleLaw and BigLaw sectors? We consider this in three related dimensions. First, for users of legal services: will technology deliver reductions in cost sufficient to enable affordable access to the legal system for consumer clients whose legal needs are currently unmet? Second, for legal services firms: will the deployment of technology to capture economies of scale mean that firms delivering legal services across the two segments become more similar? And third, for the structure of the legal services market: will the pursuit of economies of scale trigger consolidation that leads both segments toward a more concentrated market structure?

Armour, John and Sako, Mari, Lawtech: Levelling the Playing Field in Legal Services? (April 21, 2021).

Read the full article on SSRN. 

 

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Recognizing Another Black Barrier: The LSAT Contributes to the Diversity Gap in the Legal Profession

Abstract

Imagine working your entire life with the purpose of building the house of your dreams. The ability to pursue this “calling” has been granted through your tremendous hard-work and dedication to your craft. In fact, building this dream home has been the final culmination of all that you have worked towards over the past several years. Now imagine, you have successfully built the foundation of the house, and began to lay the pipeline for the plumbing. Just as the plumbing was coming together, there was one exact piece that was missing, a coupling, which would be required to connect the pipes. Since pipelines are the heartbeat of all functionality within a house, without the coupling, the incomplete plumbing may diminish the potential of all that your dream house was meant to become. Thus, hindering the dream.

Similarly to a person that has a dream of becoming a lawyer. The ability to pursue this calling would be directed through the education pipeline. After obtaining an Undergraduate degree through tremendous amount of hard-work and dedication, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), a coupling to the next education pipeline, is required for applicants to take when applying to law school. But, what if the LSAT is a faulty coupling that presents a major leak in the education pipeline? This standardize test has revealed years of racial bias from the disturbing score gaps between white and minority applicants. The LSAT has shown to have test biases within the questions that appear in the form of language interpretation, which contains culturally stereotypic language, situations, and structural components. As a result of these biases, there has been a disproportionate amount of lower scores by minorities, which hinders the chances of being accepted into law school. Thus, presenting a leak in the education pipeline that disconnects minorities from achieving their dreams of practicing law.

Because of COVID-19, the Law School Admission Council is offering the LSAT online, remotely proctored in place of being in-person. This unexpected change should bring discussion in today’s society about the overreliance on LSAT performance. Institutions should develop new and equitable means to evaluate an applicant’s ability to do well in law school, without disproportionately excluding minorities. Without admission modifications, minorities will continue to remain at a disadvantage when applying to law school.

McDuffie, Shaniqua Lynee McDuffie, Recognizing Another Black Barrier: The LSAT Contributes to the Diversity Gap in the Legal Profession (April 9, 2021).

Read the full article on SSRN.

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The Death of the Legal Profession and the Future of Law

Abstract

This article identifies the five large-scale changes that have happened or are happening to the legal profession:

1. How technology solutions have moved law from a wholly bespoke service to one that resembles an off-the-shelf commodity;
2. How globalisation and outsourcing upend traditional expectations that legal work is performed where the legal need is, and shifts production away from high cost centres to low cost centres;
3. How managed legal service providers – who are low cost, technology-enabled, and process-driven – threaten traditional commercial practice;
4. How technology platforms will diminish the significance of the law firm; and
5. How artificial intelligence and machine learning systems will take over a significant portion of lawyers’ work by the end of the 2020s.

The article discusses how these changes have transformed or are transforming the practice of law, and explains how institutions within the law will need to respond if they are to remain relevant (or even to survive). More broadly, it examines the social implications of a legal environment where a large percentage of the practice of law is performed by institutions that sit outside the legal profession.

Hunter, Dan, The Death of the Legal Profession and the Future of Law (March 17, 2020). 43(4) University of New South Wales Law Journal 1199 (2020),

Read the full article on SSRN.

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Educating Antiracist Lawyers: The Race and the Equal Protection of the Laws Program at Dickinson Law

Abstract

The year 2020 has forced us, as a nation, to recognize painful realities about systemic racism in our country and our legal system. The fallacies in our founding documents and the vestiges of our slave past are so woven into our national culture that they became hard to see except for those who suffered their daily indignities, hardships, and fears. As legal educators, we must face the role we have played in helping build the machinery of structural racism by supplying generation after generation of those who maintain that machinery and prosper within it. In this critical moment of our country’s history, we, as legal educators, must train and prepare a generation of lawyers to once and for all complete the work of the Civil Rights Movement and purge what remains of racism from our legal system – to build better safeguards to ensure that all of us, everyone, has the equal protection of the laws promised by the 14th Amendment of our Constitution.

This article is one of three interdependent articles authored by Penn State Dickinson Law faculty and staff. These articles are meant to be read together to chart the vision and implementation for building an Antiracist law school and providing a template for an Antiracist legal academy and legal profession. This first article, Danielle Conway, Bekah Saidman-Krauss, and Rebecca Schreiber, “Building an Antiracist Law School: Inclusivity in Admissions and Retention of Diverse Students—Leadership Determines DEI Success” can be downloaded on from SSRN. The third in this series is Amy Gaudion, “Exploring Race and Racism in the Law School Curriculum: an Administrator’s View on Adopting an Anti-Racist Curriculum.”

As educators, we must recognize our unique opportunity and important responsibility to combat racism in our educational mission. We must do more than transfer legal knowledge and skills to our students. We must cultivate within them, a principled, enduring commitment to work for true equality over the course of their careers and practice law in a way that promotes equal treatment of all. To do this we must reconsider not only what we teach, but how we teach it.

This essay sets out one possibility. It describes the Race and Equal Protection of the Laws program at Penn State Dickinson Law. This innovative program draws from Critical Theory and Critical Pedagogy to develop an educational approach with the objective of transforming how our students see their place and role in our evolving, flawed democracy. It incorporates the work of Critical Race Theory to help students understand the root causes of systemic racism and why the landmark decisions of the Civil Rights Movement have not realized their potential to change the lived experience of Blacks and people of Color. It adapts principles of Shared Praxis, an approach to teaching grounded in Critical Pedagogy that guides students to a deepening consciousness of the problem, explores with them sources of law and justice that can be brought to bear, and invites them to develop their own carefully considered response as law students and as lawyers.
During this yearlong course, students will learn and work as co-investigators with faculty members and other students to better understand the relationship between race and different areas of the law including housing, health care, criminal justice, democracy, capitalism and education.

Groome, Dermot, Educating Antiracist Lawyers: The Race and the Equal Protection of the Laws Program at Dickinson Law (March 5, 2021). Rutgers Race and the Law Review, Forthcoming.

Read the full article on SSRN.

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