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Is Blogging an Antidote to Lawyer Depression?

The topic of lawyer depression is a recurrent theme in the profession, afflicting not just American lawyers, as this recent and widely discussed Wall Street Journal article describes, but also lawyers in
Australia and the U.K., as I've discussed in earlier posts.  According to the WSJ article, "19 percent of lawyers suffer depression at any given time, compared with 6.7 percent as a whole."  And one in five lawyers is a problem drinker, presumably resulting from misguided attempts to self-medicate. 

The Wall Street Journal has provoked thoughtful discussion around the blogosphere regarding the reasons for the disproportionate levels of depression among lawyers as compared to other professions.  The commenters at WSJ Law Blog identify the usual suspects:  pressure to meet billable hour quotas, stress caused by constant dealings with nasty judges and rude adversaries, inability to cut the golden handcuffs that bind lawyers to high-paying positions, worries about an over-saturated job market and burgeoning student loans and pangs of conscience at defending objectionable clients or having entered the legal profession for security rather than having followed one's heart instead.

Other bloggers offer their own theories:

Jim Calloway, Practice Management Adviser for the Oklahoma Bar (which according to Calloway, once experienced at least one lawyer suicide per month), notes that one study shows that many of the most successful lawyers tend to be pessimists and thus, are more prone to depression.  Blawgletter's Barry Barnett theorizes that perhaps depression is born of constant rejection.  He writes:

people with great creative gifts -- a group that includes the best lawyers -- feel the pain of birthing innovative ideas.  Imagine, therefore, the agony of rejection -- a common experience for lawyers.  Which experience in many cases may lead to the dullness of depression.

For How to Build A Solo Practice's Susan Cartier Liebel, lawyers are inclined to depression because they're regarded as a magnet to solve everyone's problems -- not just paying clients.  Moreover, lawyers exacerbate stress because they believe that if they don't handle all of these problems on their own, they are "somehow a failure."   

As for me, I think that depression derives from the gap between the theory of law practice and the actuality.  Many students go to law school believing that law training will empower us in some way -- perhaps to do something as lofty as effect justice or make new precedent, or as pedestrian as earning a nice living and supporting our family.  Instead, we find that law, far from empowering us, enslaves us instead, making us beholden to clients, to law firms and precedent.  In spending so much time serving others, we forget or lose ourselves.

For lawyers who aren't necessarily clinically depressed (which is a serious illness requiring medical intervention and professional help), but feeling angst or lingering malaise, one possible antidote (and by far, not the only one) is... blogging.  Whereas law practice enslaves lawyers, blogging empowers, giving lawyers a unique voice in a world where they usually serve as a mouthpiece for others, giving them control over a domain, even if it's just a tiny little piece of the Internet.  Most importantly, blogging builds connections and conversation with others, and eradicates the sense of loneliness and isolation that serve as a breeding ground for depression. 

So here's the statistic I'd like to see:  how many law bloggers are depressed?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 14, 2007 at 05:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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