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Understanding ABA Survey Results about Attorney Well-being


For many years, the legal industry has acknowledged the challenges and stressors facing attorneys. In 2018, the American Bar Association (ABA) launched a campaign to address the troubling rates of alcohol use, substance use, and mental health issues among lawyers. So, has the increased focus on mental health led to improved attorney well-being?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the results of a recent ABA survey on this topic.

Let’s get started!

Defining The Problem

In 2016, the ABA partnered with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation to conduct a major study on attorney wellbeing. This research revealed that lawyers experience substance abuse disorders and mental health issues at levels “substantially higher than the general population and other highly educated professionals.”

To address this problem, the organization created the ABA Well-Being Campaign. The campaign was meant to improve the substance use and mental health landscape of the legal profession, with an emphasis on helping legal employers support a healthy work environment.

As of 2021, over 200 legal employers have signed the campaign pledge, agreeing to adopt the project’s framework for improved well-being among lawyers.

The Wellness Landscape in 2020

According to the ABA’s 2021 Profile of the Legal Profession, attorney well-being differs dramatically between women and men. Survey results showed that “female lawyers were more likely to experience stress, anxiety, and depression in 2020 than male lawyers and were more likely to engage in hazardous drinking.” Furthermore, women who experienced more conflicts between work and family were four times more likely to leave the legal profession, or consider leaving, due to mental health issues, burnout, and stress.

Other notable findings include:

  • Two-thirds of women (67%) reported moderate or severe stress compared with less than half of men (49%).
  • Nearly one-quarter of women (23%) reported moderate or severe anxiety compared with 15% of men.
  • One in five women (20%) reported moderate or severe depression compared with 15% of men.
  • One-third of women (34%) reported hazardous drinking compared with 25% of men.

While there were no specific studies conducted to measure the impact of the ABA Well-Being Campaign Pledge, we can draw some conclusions based on workplace-related responses. Survey results show that:

  • More than half (56%) of the 647 lawyers surveyed agreed with the statement “My workplace is supportive of my mental health needs.”
  • Most lawyers (73%) still report working long hours either “often” or “sometimes”. Only 9% of respondents said they “never stop working”.

Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading! We hope we’ve helped you understand some of the results featured in the ABA’s Profile of the Legal Profession. If you’d like to learn more, we encourage you to read the profile directly for more information. If you enjoyed this article, feel free to share it on social media!

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