“SILENT GRIEF” – “DEADLY SERIOUS” FOLLOW-UP

Two especially useful comments to “DEADLY SERIOUS” — retitled in “SILENT GRIEF” in the Am Law Daily version posted Friday —  illustrate why I continue this blog.

One came from “Recovering Attorney,” who wrote:

“There are some resources devoted to attorneys who need assistance. For law students, the Dave Nee Foundation promotes suicide prevention and education http://www.daveneefoundation.com/. The Lawyers With Depression website also has many helpful articles and robust discussions http://lawyerswithdepression.com/. Check out the many links at both sites.”

A longer comment came from “Former Big Law Partner.” It can be viewed in its entirety by clicking on the right side of The Belly’s home page, but here’s an excerpt:

“For starters, we have to recognize that the personalities of most of us who make the cut and are hired as associates at BigLaw firms are, by nature, extremely competitive and accustomed to success…I think that we need to recognize that we tend to have personalities that make us particularly susceptible to the kinds of excesses that occur at BigLaw firms when there are not other mechanisms in place, either in our personal lives or at the firms themselves, that can help us to draw back and retain a proper perspective on our professional lives.

“Second, I agree that the overriding profit motive of nearly all law firms, not just BigLaw, is driving lawyers to desperation…Without question, I believe that it is the motive not just to make a comfortable living, but to be wealthy, that is robbing our profession of its soul.

“Third, the law schools know that there will not be job offers for all of the graduating law students, many of whom will be saddled with tremendous debt when they graduate, but nevertheless, the schools gladly take incoming students’ tuition money. Many of those students have so much debt that, if they are lucky enough to get a job (because of the glut of lawyers churned out by the law schools), they have little choice but to remain in that job as long as they can to pay down their loans, which causes many to be trapped in situations where they are unhappy…

Finally, I think that society has changed in ways that have removed many of the safety nets that might have, at an earlier time, prevented some of us from reaching such depths of despair over our jobs…[O]ur shared political or civic community has eroded to a substantial degree and, I think, exacerbates the sense of alienation and depression that we sometimes can feel.

I went through a very difficult time as I rose through the ranks of a BigLaw firm and struggled with many of these tensions…I was lucky to have moved to a different situation at the time that I did, when there were such opportunities. Unfortunately, many of those don’t exist given the current state of the economy and glut of lawyers.

And that is the real crux of the matter with attorney suicides, as I see it: It is when people see no alternatives and have given up any hope that they take such a drastic and tragic action. I hope that structural changes in law firms and law schools can be made that will give lawyers real alternatives. In the meantime, I think that all we can do is what you are doing in your college seminar and here: bringing these issues into the light and trying to raise the consciousness of current and prospective lawyers to these dangers.”

Thanks for these thoughtful contributions.

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