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


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. 

D.C. Bar seeking views on changes to Rule 46

In May we reported that the D.C. Bar Board of Governors had submitted proposed amendments to certain provisions of Court of Appeals Rule 46.  This Rule governs admission of non-ABA-accredited law school graduates, including foreign-educated individuals, to the D.C. Bar.  Michael Rybak, Senior Staff Attorney of the Office of Regulation Counsel at the D.C. Bar has been in touch to inform ICLR members that on May 31, 2018, the D.C. Court of Appeals published a notice for public comment on the D.C. Bar’s proposed amendments to Rule 46. Written comments are invited from interested parties, including other legal regulators who may be particularly keen to address the following questions:

  • (1) To what extent, if any, should considerations of reciprocity play a role in the admission of foreign-educated lawyers to the D.C. Bar?
  • (2) Should the rules permitting admission to the bar of graduates of domestic law schools not accredited by the American Bar Association be different from the rules applicable to graduates of foreign non-accredited law schools?

Views must be submitted to the Court of Appeals by July 31, 2018.
Read the Court’s notice for public comment (M-261-18) and other relevant materials here.

D.C. Bar: eliminating admission barriers for foreign law graduates

The D.C. Bar Board of Governors has submitted proposed amendments to certain provisions of Court of Appeals Rule 46, which governs admission of non-ABA-accredited law school graduates, including foreign-educated individuals, to the D.C. Bar.

Under the proposed amendments, graduates from non-ABA-accredited law schools, including graduates of foreign law schools, may qualify for Bar admission by first completing 24 credit hours of additional education, instead of 26 hours under existing Rule 46. The proposal also would allow foreign-educated individuals to complete any amount of the additional credit hours by distance learning from an ABA-accredited law school.

“This proposal, if adopted, would make the District of Columbia the first jurisdiction to specifically allow completion of any amount of the required additional education by distance learning,” said D.C. Bar President Patrick McGlone.

Additionally, the Board of Governors is proposing to change the subject-matter requirement in Rule 46 from all credit hours in subjects tested on the Uniform Bar Examination to six credit hours from a list of specific courses described in Rule 46, six credit hours of subjects tested on the UBE, and 12 hours in elective courses.

“The proposed change to the course subject requirement would balance knowledge of fundamental American jurisprudence with elective courses useful to an applicant’s practice interests,” McGlone said.

Recognising the increasing globalization of the legal profession, the Board believes these changes would help make the D.C. Bar more competitive on the international stage, bringing the Bar in line with other major bars in the United States.

The amendments were first explored by the D.C. Bar Global Legal Practice Task Force beginning in September 2014 and were approved by the Board of Governors on February 15.  Read the Task Force’s final report to the Bar’s Board of Governors, setting forth its final recommendations to amend Rule 46.

Profile of a regulator: Gene Shipp Jr.

Wallace E. “Gene” Shipp Jr. is retiring as head of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel for the District of Columbia after nearly 37 years of service.  In 2016 Shipp was the recipient of the American Bar Association’s Michael Franck Professional Responsibility Award, he was also a popular and active member of the ICLR community.  Recently, Shipp was interviewed by the Washington Lawyer to reminisce on how the disciplinary system has evolved over the course of his career.  The full article can be read here but below are some edited highlights:

How things have changed…

When Gene first joined the D.C. attorney disciplinary system in 1980, there were three or four secretaries and about five lawyers in the office.  The office now has a staff of 35 people, including 18 lawyers and two retired FBI agents who are investigators.  Back then there were 14,000 lawyers in Washington, D.C., now there are 104,000.  Despite the rise in lawyer numbers there has not been a rise in complaints.  At one time they were receiving 1,500 complaints a year and now they receive about 1,000 complaints, they typically docket 400 to 500 of these. They ‘triage’ each complaint and that, along with a significant improvement in the teaching of professional responsibility to lawyers, has helped reduced the numbers

What are three things you are most proud of?

  • I am proud of the mission that the court has given us — to protect the public — and the professionalism and dedication that the staff brings to it.
  • I am proud of the width and breadth that this office is able to undertake.  There isn’t a kind of law — whether it’s immigration law, uptown conflict law, big firm law, anti-dumping law — where we can’t do the job.
  • I am proud of the fact that we are able to assist lawyers in regaining their ethical footing, not just simply yell at them, but to put them into the kind of services they need so we, hopefully, never see them again.

How do you see the office progressing in the future?

D.C. is the reciprocal capital of the world and it is becoming increasingly international. We’ve needed assistance in 19 cases where the conduct occurred somewhere outside the United States. We’ve expanded our partnerships with international disciplining agencies all over the world from Singapore to South Africa to Great Britain to Europe. We now can pick up the phone and find out things we could never find out before and have a much more robust investigation.

What’s next for Gene Shipp?

I hope one of these days to retire to the family farm. I have 60 acres and three John Deere tractors in the Shenandoah Valley waiting for me. My mom and my wife have put out 11 flower gardens. You can’t get a better situation than having your folks alive at 93, and we have a wonderful time on the weekends. I think that I am going to leave lawyers alone for a while. It’s been a great gig, but there’s only so much fun one individual should be allowed to have.

Office of Disciplinary Counsel (Washington)

Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC)
Jurisdiction: Washington DC
Country: United States of America
Regulatory function: The Office of Disciplinary Counsel is part of the Washington State Bar Association. It is the disciplinary authority in Washington DC.
Further information:
Washington in the IBA Regulators Directory
ODC website
ICLR members: Log in for a list of members at this organisation.