Pro Bono News

Why Lawyer Well-Being Can Impact Access to Justice

Friday, August 09, 2019

Why Lawyer Well-Being Can Impact Access to Justice

"Promoting mental health and well-being among public interest attorneys goes beyond creating healthy work environments and has a direct impact on the quality and availability of legal services accessible to low-income people, panelists said Friday at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco.

Pointing to research that has shown high instances of alcohol abuse disorders and mental health issues across the legal profession, panelists discussed the importance of focusing on well-being in public interest settings where lawyers are offering vital services to communities that may not otherwise have access to the justice system.

Anne Brafford, a former Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP partner who is now a consultant and researcher on lawyer well-being, said that creating cultures and institutions where mental and physical health are paramount allows attorneys to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

“There are studies showing we have this issue of potential alcohol use disorders, depression, anxiety, elevated stress, work addiction, not enough sleep, high suicide rate. These are issues we’re seeing in the profession,” she said. “If lawyers are burned out, stressed out, drugged out, they can’t contribute what they’re capable of contributing to the world.”

Another of the panelists, longtime California public defender Jose Varela, currently public defender of Marin County, said he began to notice the importance of promoting lawyer well-being after witnessing the high burnout and turnover rates of attorneys in his public defender office..."

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