Friday, July 28, 2017

Don’t Forget About High Rates of Depression and Substance Abuse Among Lawyers

Rampant Drug Use: On July 15, 2017, the New York Times pubished an Eilene Zimmerman article that was entitled “The Lawyer, the Addict.” After retelling how she found out that her ex-husband died of an overdose, and stumbled onto his body, the writer provides the following information:

“The further I probed, the more apparent it became that drug abuse among America’s lawyers is on the rise and deeply hidden. 

One of the first things I learned is that there is little research on lawyers and drug abuse. Nor is there much data on drug use among lawyers compared with the general population or white-collar workers specifically. 

One of the most comprehensive studies of lawyers and substance abuse was released just seven months after Peter died. That 2016 report, from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association, analyzed the responses of 12,825 licensed, practicing attorneys across 19 states. 

Overall, the results showed that about 21 percent of lawyers qualify as problem drinkers, while 28 percent struggle with mild or more serious depression and 19 percent struggle with anxiety. 

Only 3,419 lawyers answered questions about drug use, and that itself is telling, said Patrick Krill, the study’s lead author and also a lawyer. “It’s left to speculation what motivated 75 percent of attorneys to skip over the section on drug use as if it wasn’t there.” 

In Mr. Krill’s opinion, they were afraid to answer. 

Of the lawyers that did answer those questions, 5.6 percent used cocaine, crack and stimulants; 5.6 percent used opioids; 10.2 percent used marijuana and hash; and nearly 16 percent used sedatives. Eighty-five percent of all the lawyers surveyed had used alcohol in the previous year. (For comparison sake, about 65 percent of the general population drinks alcohol.)” [Emphasis mine]

Does that seem to be a sound “profession” to join, prospective law student? Do you somehow think that you are smarter or better than these men and women, including those who attended much stronger law schools than the ones you are considering?!

Prior Coverage: Back on April 1, 2017, the American Lawyer featured a Ray Strom piece labeled “Ex-Reed Smith Partner’s Suicide Trial Highlights Anxiety in Big Law Mergers.” Take a look at this opening:

“Just weeks before Stewart Dolin committed suicide in 2010, he told his therapist he still felt anxious about his position at Reed Smith, the global firm he had joined as a result of its 2007 merger with his former home, 140-lawyer Chicago firm Sachnoff & Weaver. 

To the outside world, Dolin’s position may have seemed secure. A former management committee member at Sachnoff & Weaver, the 57-year-old had been chosen to lead Reed Smith’s corporate and securities practice. But his therapist testified this week in a Chicago trial over Dolin’s suicide that the 2007 merger left him for years racked with anxiety and self-doubt… 

In a rare view in the human toll that some therapists believe Big Law mergers can have, Dolin’s therapist, Sydney Reed, testified this week that her former client was worried his Loyola University Chicago School of Law degree was inadequate at a firm now full of graduates from Ivy Leagye schools like Harvard and Yale.” [Emphasis mine]

The man was successful by pretty much every American standard, and yet he was concerned that his TTT law degree was not up to par to those of his colleagues. You don’t see dentists and doctors lamenting the fact that they went to lower tier schools. Later on, the author continued:

“Dolin’s therapist testified that she often attempted to reassure him of his place at Reed Smith. When Dolin said his regional practice would be tossed aside by an international firm, Reed told him there must be a reason why a global firm like Reed Smith wanted to merge with his Midwestern firm. 

When he expressed fears of losing his ability to provide for his family and becoming a “bag lady,” Reed said she reminded Dolin that he billed $4 million in work the previous year. And she doubted his concern that he was the lone partner to feel anxious about the merger. 

“The facts in terms of his professional performance had to be pulled out of him when he felt he wouldn’t make it at this international law firm,” said Reed, who described Dolin’s negative thinking as out of touch with the reality he faced at Reed Smith. “The other part would be I’d ask him, ‘Do you think there’s anxiety in other partners?’ He’d be surprised by that question.” 

As a group, 28 percent of lawyers struggle with some level of depression, said a study last year co-founded by the American Bar Association. That’s compared with less than 8 percent for the general population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, the CDC said in a 2012 analysis that the legal industry had the 11th-highest incidence of suicide among occupations, with 18.8 people out of 100,000 taking their lives, compared to 16.1 nationally.” [Emphasis mine]

Yes, that is uplifting, right? Now imagine how this condition is compounded by ridiculous amounts of non-dischargeable debt – and weak employment prospects.

Conclusion: These men were the winners in the law school game, at least in terms of their employment outcomes. Look at those staggering numbers again, in case you were too busy beaming with pride over your TTTT acceptance letter. In the end, if you are in a good-paying job with a mere Bachelor’s degree – and you have real chances to move up or you are happy in your current position – then you are much better off by remaining in that post. Accumulating another $135K+ in student debt – for a chance to enter a glutted “profession” – will typically not improve your health or your quality of life.


  1. Jesus H. Christ on a skateboard! A third of a century after graduating from his toilet school, Dolin still felt the stigma and thought that it might cost him his job high up in a big law firm.

    Consider that Loyola Chicago was not a toilet in 1977, when Dolin graduated. Today, when it is universally acknowledged as a toilet (except perhaps by the lemmings who enroll there and fancy it to be the Jesuit Harvard of Lake Michigan), can anyone possibly expect a good outcome?

    Perhaps Dolin wasn't being quite rational. But he seems right to have been concerned about being pushed aside. Just before he took his life, another lawyer was appointed to share his function at that firm. Did that mean that he was on the way out?

    Incidentally, I wonder what right the therapist had to divulge this information. Shouldn't she have kept it confidential?

    1. Old Guy, any lemming mentioning Loyola and Harvard in the same sentence is not your usual lemming. They most likely suffers psychosis.

      I have heard that phrase before when I attended a private, crummy little midwest college for undergrad. Lemmings would claim our College was the Harvard of the midwest. In retrospect, I wish I had said "STFU, have you ever heard of U. of Chicago, Northwestern, or Notre Dame?" Those are real universities on par with Harvard. My undergrad is really good at spinning bad news. It is at the bottom of the US News undergrad rankings. So the school holds itself out as a "Nationally ranked college." The job prospects are poor. The statistics on the college scorecard website maintained by the DOE are absolutely abysmal. The majority of grads are earning about the same salary as a high school grad. Keep in mind, tuition and room/board total $50k a year. So the school touts all of the grads that joined Americorps. They beat Harvard in that category!

    2. Calling oneself "the Harvard of" or "the Cadillac of" or "the Champagne of" is nothing but a shameful confession of shabbiness. If your college were that great, it wouldn't have to trumpet its greatness: its name would be on a par with Harvard's, or at least Notre Dame's. Yale, for example, does not call itself "the Harvard of Connecticut".

      "The Harvard of the Midwest" is particularly rich. From what you say, it appears that any number of schools in the Midwest have a better claim to that title than your poxy little overpriced college.

    3. Third world bootstrap lifting oneself in prestige by self-generated aggrandizement.

      The Law is renown for it-and totally unfounded.

      The "law" is a self-inflated bubble.


  2. My brother was a lawyer. He developed cirrhosis in his mid 40s. He never took vacations because he was always working 70 or 80 hour weeks. 60 hour weeks were a vacation to him. I just remember seeing him in rehab. It was heartbreaking. My hands are shaking now as I write this. I'm 8 years older than him and one of my first memories was putting on a paper gown with my dad to go see the new baby. And at age 40 my brother's eyes were sunken in. He was balding and out of shape. And he had no hope. He kept going back to the painkillers and hard drugs. He tried to take his own life more than once. I remember that a lot of the patients at that first rehab were lawyers too. It was that experience that made me and my sisters steer our kids away from a career in the law.

    1. I understand this entirely. For some reason, I have able to persist for 40 years as a solo, only recently falling into the abyss of alcohol. I may pull out of that, but the issue is still an open question. I pray for everyone else, and need a few prayers for myself.

    2. ^^^ you should be close to retirement, no? You might be a little short on money, but honestly, it's something to think about. Go get a retirement job at your local casino - being surrounded by people helps - or something.

  3. I attended that rancid, steaming pile of excrement known as Loyola University Chicago School of Law. The school was a toilet 15-20 years ago and left me unemployed and $150,000+ in debt. I lost the law school game. I never had a legal career with a degree from that toilet. I pursued a career completely unrelated to law. The JD provided no advantage. The first few years after graduation, I was upset that I never had a legal career. I am now doing very well for myself and repaid all of the loans I incurred while attending that toilet. Now I am glad that I never had a legal career. I imagine even if I had gotten into big law, they would have booted my TT ass after a few years anyway. That could have made it much more difficult to pursue the career I’m in now – which is much more prestigious than big law anyway.

    Stewart Dolin won the law school game and worked for years in big law. In the end, he ended up killing himself. I’m thankful for my life, health, and happiness after making a huge mistake by attending a toilet law school.

    By the way, I’ve never seen any mention of Dolin’s suicide from Loyola. Those kind of stories may keep lemmings away. Though, I do get plenty of letters begging for money. In the past, Loyola was a school that claimed every grad was making six figure salaries. Now that the toilet has to publish accurate employment stats and everyone knows the reputation of the school is lower than rat piss, the school claims their mission is to train public interest lawyers. What a joke.

  4. Wondering how all my Adderall dependent TTTT classmates are doing. I don't keep in touch, but I can imagine that more than a few have worked their way into full-blown addiction by now. Pretty sure rampant stimulant and alcohol abuse are hallmarks of all garbage law schools.

  5. It's a stressful field. For those who get in. Long hours. Boring work. The biglaw associates making $160k are working fucking 3500 hours a year to make that. Shit, good salespeople can make more than $50 an hour.

    1. It has a high casualty rate. I survived in solo sh!tlaw about three years before packing it in.

      "Career" life expectancy is rather short for TTT solos, lacking any sort of practicum or mentoring whatsoever. The law is the only "profession" that turns you loose on the street at the passing of a written exam. You learn from your mistakes, and that process takes a high toll on health, both physical and mental. There are no support mechanisms for the sh!tlaw solo. No senior person to turn to, even to vent. You own it. All of it.

      I tell the kids to think really hard about whether soloing is for them, as it is the most likely of outcomes for a TTT grad.

    2. A perfect statement of the situation.

      Two years after graduation from law school I got a job with a small firm. Pay was horrible. A year and and half I left that firm and ultimately went solo.

      It has been a very hard course of work life.

      My 3 children will not be lawyers. And they aren't. My oldest, a radiologist, 25 years younger than me earns 5 times my income.

      I wasted my life (and I swore to myself decades ago that I would not do that.)

      And so it goes.


    3. I got hired by a three man law firm after law school. It was terrible. Each of my three years there, I made under $45K. After that I went back to teaching grade school. I made more doing that and it was less stressful.

  6. Dolin shouldn't have killed himself. He had achieved a position where he could have stockpiled cash with relatively little difficulty.

    Any lawyer in his position, and I don't think he was unreasonable to suspect he would be pushed out, should stop looking at themselves as facing a crisis, and start looking at their employers as their marks.

    Suck as much $$$ out of them while you can, doing as little as possible. Sell everything you own, downsize your house, buy a used car.. Go FUll Dave Ramsey. Cash is king, debt is dumb.

    As a failed lawyer-turned factory worker, honestly, it is not that scary to lose a career. It's depressing and humiliating, but you come out of it with a sense of yourself as a person, and it's really not that bad.

    1. Maybe Dolin, like me, cares about more than stockpiling cash. Maybe he was right to kill himself. I won't judge him.

      There aren't many factories left here, and none would hire my ass.


    Here’s another recent, apparent suicide of a highly successful Biglaw attorney. On June 6, 2017, Kathryn Rubino posted an ATL entry labeled “Davis Polk Partners Dies After Being Struck By A Train.” Below is the full text of that piece:

    “Sad news in the world of Biglaw: Davis Polk partner Kirtee Kapoor died yesterday, after being struck by a train in San Mateo, California.

    “Early reports indicate this was an intentional act,” Caltrain spokesperson Tasha Bartholomew said in a statement. Kapoor was trespassing near the Watkins Avenue train and was in the train’s right-of-way, according to Bartholomew.

    The firm has released a statement celebrating Kapoor’s legacy as a lawyer and as a person:

    Kirtee was a truly wonderful man. His optimism, warmth, honesty and wisdom were inspiring. He will be remembered as a great partner of the firm, a beloved colleague and adviser, and a steadfast friend to so many….

    We will miss Kirtee tremendously. Our deepest sympathies go to his wife and daughter, and we extend our most heartfelt condolences to all of his family, colleagues, friends and clients.

    Kapoor was born in India and earned his LL.B. from the University of Delhi Faculty of Law and his B.C.L. from Balliol College, University of Oxford, before going to NYU Law to get his LL.M. He began working as an associate in the New York office of Davis Polk in 1999, and was elevated to partner in 2007.

    In 2015, Kapoor moved to join the firm’s Northern California office. His work focused on advising clients on mergers & acquisitions and other corporate matters, and he was head of the firm’s India practice. He was a prominent practitioner in the space, and his passing was noted in Indian legal publications such as Bar & Bench and Legally India. He was 46 at the time of his death.

    Our thoughts are with Kapoor’s family, friends and colleagues.”

    This talented man was the head of Davis Polk’s India practice, and yet he apparently walked into the path of a moving train. It is clear that the legal field is not only stressful for those with outrageous sums of student debt paired with a paltry income. How good will your prospects look with a TTT law degree, lemming?

    1. Smart lad, to slip betimes away
      From fields where glory does not stay.
      And early though the laurel grows,
      It withers quicker than the rose.

      ——A.E. Housman

    2. Very common in Japan as well... suicide by train.

      It combines depression and hopelessness with a victim complex and universal malice, a sort of "The world has screwed me, so I'm going to traumatize the hell out of a train crew out of spite."

  8. Too many lawyers. You know, it made sense with the rise of the regulatory state (and when everything was still on paper and you needed a bar card to access info) in the 1960s and 70s. But telling people they can do anything with a law degree is dumb because you can also do all those things without a law degree.

  9. You can do things without finishing high school too.


    Back on December 2, 2016, ATL published a Staci Zaretsky piece entitled "Bar Exam Suicides Are Disturbingly Common Among Recent Law School Graduates." Take a look at this excerpt:

    "Welcome to the latest installment of The Struggle, a series where we examine the mental-health issues that students encounter during the oftentimes grueling law school experience. We are posting these stories because sometimes what law students really need is to know that they’re not alone in their pain. Sometimes what law students need is to know that they’ve got a friend who is willing to share not just in their triumphs, but also in their struggles. These are real e-mails and messages we’ve received from real readers.

    If these issues resonate with you, please reach out to us. Your stories need to be heard. You can email us, text us at (646) 820-8477, or tweet us @atlblog. We will share your stories anonymously. You may be able to help a law student who needs to know that someone else has been there before and survived.

    In our last installment in this series, we delivered a message from the parents of a recent law school graduate who took his own life after discovering that he’d failed the bar exam. We received a deluge of emails concerning law school graduates’ bar-exam related suicides and law school graduates’ bar-exam-related suicidal ideations. We’re publishing several of them here today to let our readers know that they are not the only ones plagued by these thoughts, and that they don’t need to resort to extreme courses of action, because it is possible to overcome bar exam failure. Your life is worth living.

    Just read the story about the UC Hastings Grad who committed suicide after failing. It really resonated with me.

    I too, failed the bar the first time around, and struggled to get out of a funk for a while. I remember having similar thoughts about whether or not I could go on living if I failed twice. I ended up going to a psychiatrist (in a vain attempt to get Adderall for studying) but ended up crying and pouring my heart out for an hour instead. The Doctor told me that I clearly did not have ADD, and then posed a question that really stuck with me: Have you ever failed at anything before?

    It was at this point that I realized that the concept failure was new to me, as I’m sure it is to a lot of law students, who have typically been high achievers all their life. I wish I could tell Brian, or anyone else struggling with the daunting task of picking themselves back up after failing, that it really does get better. The first few days after failing the bar were undoubtedly some of the worst of my life, but they’re nothing but a faint memory at this point. People care, and people want to help. Please, talk to someone. If you are feeling sad or depressed, don’t ignore those feelings — talk to a professional. Talk to your friend. Talk to your dog. Talk to someone. Had I not gone to see the doctor, I don’t know if I would have gotten out of my funk, or if those feelings of not wanting to live would have manifested into something real. I’m thankful that I had a great support system and was able to conquer the test on the second go around. It’s hard, but it does get better. Don’t let failing win."

    This story shows the other end of the spectrum, i.e. those who did not make it into the field. Imagine the stress of spending three years of your life – and accumulating huge amounts of student debt in the process – and then failing to get licensed. This is a shame, and I hope that prospective students seriously consider this aspect before they register with LSAC.

  11. Ran into a dentist friend of mine the other day. Asked him how things were going... he told me Dental practice was horrible... that four buddies of his from his dental class had committed suicide. I have not personally noticed Lawyers being anymore depressed than anybody else. Medicine is a hard profession. Dentistry is a hard profession. Being employed by a corporation instead of working for yourself can be a very depressing situation. Life in our capitalistic society is just difficult. That is the way it is designed to be. We are not Denmark... for better or worse.

  12. One other thing... these scam blogs perform a valuable service of course... but I think they take things to the extreme too often. It makes it seem that people have no hope in this profession. The truth is, many people do fine in this profession, many thrive.

    1. No doubt a lot of people thrive in this profession. Lots of people thrive doing door to door sales too. I wouldn't recommend that for most people.

      I was a lawyer for 6 years before I got out. I can say they were the worst 6 years of my life. Don't miss it at all. I went back and got my MBA and things are so much better. The stress of being a lawyer was so bad that my hair was falling out. Not a good thing when you're a woman. I no longer work with jerks and things are much better. It's my experience. But I know it's true of so many of my former lawyer friends. It's not unusual to hear us talk about ourselves as recovering lawyers.

  13. These sites may even promote depression and suicide by pounding in the sense that if you are a lawyer... all is lost. Heck, these sites have effected me, and as a lawyer I've done well for myself.

    1. Sorry to have "effected" you in that way!

    2. 5:15, don't expect competent spelling from lawyers. Law hasn't been a learnèd profession for decades.

    3. Pretty bad...but not surprising that you are grammar nazis...i did say far too many lawyers were dicks after all.

  14. The Latest on a proposal to lower the minimum score for California's attorney exam (all times local):

  15. Precisely the point, 12:56. If you're actually a practicing attorney, you know full well what it's like in this "profession". It's not a place for nice guys and collegiality. Yet another reason to avoid it at all costs, as this blog emphasizes.

  16. I agree with you 12:31 PM.... not in the litigation field anyway. I can't speak for less confrontational fields like Trusts and Estates... I would think lawyers would be more decent in those types of practices... but litigators....a breed unto themselves. And face it, a career defense lawyer who spends his life trying to deprive the individual of a just result on behalf of an insurance company? What kine of people are they in the end?


    On August 23, 2017, Casey Berman posted a brilliant piece on his Leave Law Behind blog. That entry was labled “You have a choice to make.” Here is the full article below:

    “I have learned recently that there are two types of emotions in the world:

    Love or fear.

    Love or fear.

    Everything else is a sub-element.

    Love is confidence and support and collaboration and love. It is worthiness and desire and faith. It is connection and abundance and pure and helpful and value. It is backbone and morality and heartfelt and determined and giving. It is growth and daring.

    Fear is the anxiety and the confusion. And frustration and lack. It is depression and corrupt and rotten. It is misaligned and worry and suspicion and insecurity and unworthiness and playing small and concern. It is stunted.

    Both emotions play integral parts in defining who we are and the decisions we make.

    We fully know we are acting out of love when we realize that we are not acting out of fear.

    But it’s fear that keeps you dragging yourself into your attorney job you can’t stand. It’s fear that results in your stress, in your 60+ hour workweeks, in your addictions to numb the pain.

    We unhappy attorneys produce these fears ourselves

    It’s a fear that we are not worthy of success.

    It’s a fear that we are not good enough.

    It’s a fear that we are not special.

    It’s a fear that life will be really hard for a long time.

    It’s a fear that we will never reach our potential.

    We attorneys have done everything “right” for so long, got the good grades, passed the tests, got into the schools, played by the rules, climbed the ladders, and have succeeded in other people’s eyes.

    But we are not happy and we are confused as to why and we are frustrated and we don’t like feeling this way any longer.”

  18. And here is the remainder of that piece:

    “To leave the law, I chose not to live in fear

    It’s so difficult, it’s so difficult to not let fear in. But those of us who have left the law have slowly trained our minds to not live in fear, to not act in fear.

    And it wasn’t an angel who trained us, and we didn’t win the lottery and come awash with money, and we haven’t all gone on any medication.

    We began to have faith. We began to have faith in ourselves. We began to know, deep down, viscerally know that we can do it. We began to see that we are worthy … worthy of success and happiness and light and purpose and ease.

    Faith is about not settling for anything less than what you want. It is about having a desire and making sure you see it through. It is knowing that everything will be alright.

    Everything will be alright.

    I can do this.

    I deserve this."

    This cuts to the heart of the matter: law is a stressful, awful "profession." Success is typically centered on prestige and name brand of the law school that you attended. Even those relative few from lower ranked schools who do well often do not live down the fact that they did not get into an elite in$titution. However, MANY grads from the top schools are often depressed and frustrated at their "elite" law jobs. Mr. Berman graduated from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. He is obviously a talented individual and a great writer, and he chose to leave this field. I am glad to see that he is making a contribution to help others move on from this horrible industry.


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