Lawyers and Stress: President’s Blog

How are you doing these days, PAABA? Summer is coming to an end, vacations are over, and school has started again. Time to put away the shorts and sandals and dive back into our mergers, our licensing agreements, our settlement negotiations, and our discovery battles. For some of us, this is energizing; for others, the daily grind is grinding us down.

If you’re in the latter category, it can feel like you’re the only one having trouble keeping focused on your work, experiencing thoughts of hopelessness or worthlessness, or having a drink or two too many in the evening. This is your annual reminder that there are confidential resources available to all of us which are accessible at any stage in the process: before you think you’re in trouble, while you’re in the thick of it, or after you end up in the disciplinary system.

The State Bar’s Lawyer Assistance Program provides a free, confidential mental health evaluation by trained professionals; short-term personal counseling or career counseling; monitoring and verification requirements that may be imposed by your employer, the court, or the bar’s Alternative Discipline Program; and local, attorneys-only group discussion sessions led by a seasoned therapist. If you participate in the LAP, that participation is 100% confidential. You can get the help you need, and your employer, your colleagues, and your clients never need to know.

If you’re not quite ready for interactive processes, or if you’re just curious about what your colleagues may be experiencing, two recent books written by attorneys and former attorneys — The Anxious Lawyer by Jeena Cho and Karen Gifford, and The Addicted Lawyer: Tales of the Bar, Booze, Blow, & Redemption by Brian Cuban — candidly discuss mental health disorders and substance abuse in our profession, and offer empathetic, practical ways to identify and address problems before they get out of control. I’ve read them both and found them both eye-opening and well worth the time.

Gretchen Birkheimer
PAABA President 2017-2018

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