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This article has been written by Oishika Banerji, an undergraduate student at Amity Law School, Kolkata. This is an exhaustive article that deals with the mental health of legal professionals. 


For some time now, mental health has gained importance like that of physical health because of several individuals who are opening up about their mental illness and the ways by which they had coped with it. Several organizations are as well working towards the upliftment of discussion surrounding mental health which has made a lot of us aware about mental health in a large way. Mental health is a field that has always been neglected because it was hard to accept by the majority population that the mind can be affected just like the physical body. Mental health has an important role to play in the legal profession also just like in any other spheres. The legal profession accelerates mental health because of the profession, work ethics and the environment a lawyer is surrounded with.

A legal profession is different from any other profession in a way that it involves the lives of other people and study of their behaviour to know what their grief has to say. It does not end here because a legal professional has to talk in the language of law in such a way that his client is not denied justice in any way. A legal professional is burdened with the duty of fighting for a cause that has affected his clients and thereby helps them to get access to justice. As the legal profession is becoming an increasingly demanding in different ways, a lawyer is required to be present not only in a court as a litigant but also as a consultant in a law firm being a corporate slave, a judge in the judiciary, a legal professor in universities, a law reporter and the list goes endless. These professions under the legal domain are exhaustive both physically and mentally for a legal profession.

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Therefore comes the necessity to discuss more and find ways to handle and deal with mental health associated with the legal professionals. The present lockdown has increased the discussion about the mental health of lawyers who are indeed facing a tough time like all other professionals back in the home. The stigma linked with mental health needs to be erased in order to let the legal professionals speak about their mental distress. It is time that the world should together respond to mental health in a positive way so as to create an atmosphere where a person would not feel submissive to talk about his problems. 

The mental health of legal professional

The legal profession gives a lawyer to be acquainted with the worst of human behaviour. Therefore the mental health of legal professionals is nothing new. What is new is the discussions surrounding the mental health of legal professionals which received very little attention globally. 

  1. Several types of research have shown that lawyers are prone to stress oriented illness which subsequently results in insomnia, anxiety disorder, depression, addiction to several things like gambling, drugs, alcohol, smoking which proves to be detrimental for their lives and profession. 
  2. According to the survey conducted by the Canadian Bar Association (CAB), about 58% of lawyers, attorneys, law students, judges experienced stress burnouts, whereas about 48% of the legal professionals were subjected to anxiety disorders and 25% of the lawyers were suffering from depression. 
  3. Further, the study carried out by John Hopkins University in the year 1990 revealed that the rate at which clinical depression affects lawyers is three times more than it affects other professionals professing different occupations. The study included that about 15% of the lawyers were prone to suffering from some kind of depression while they were in their profession. Let’s not forget that a lawyer never retires and even after he leaves the place where he was professing, the profession never leaves him. Therefore depression throughout professional life is something that requires urgent care for all lawyers.
  4. In a study conducted in North Carolina it was observed that among 2,500 lawyers of the region, one in every four lawyers showed symptoms of clinical depression. Clinical psychologist Racheal Fry of Birmingham has often worked with lawyers from close quarters and therefore revealed that lawyers are more inclined towards pessimistic thinking which is good for the profession they are in but in the long term is responsible for welcoming depression that can stay with the lawyer for the rest of his life.

Therefore what constitutes to make a person a better and a successful lawyer can predispose the person to depression. Along with insomnia, anxiety disorder and other issues, the most important issue is suicidal thoughts and tendencies that result from prolonged depression, anxiety disorder and unhealthy behaviour.

Feeling of being defeated, and helpless can also result in suicidal thoughts. These thoughts become exhaustive and frequent when the mental illness reaches its peak ultimately resulting in the person killing himself and ending his life. The only way to curb the same is by resolving the roots of the problem and providing treatment to the lawyer who is in need of it.

A lawyer is always expected to work more in order to be successful in the profession and therefore has to follow the unpredictable schedules in order to execute the most in the profession. It is because of the unknown schedules that the lawyer fails to locate tools that can help him to release stress. As Fry describes, a lawyer is always viewed as a person who can resolve all issues of the clients smoothly and without much havoc. We often forget that lawyers are at the end of the day humans only and therefore expecting too much from them does not motivate them but instead has a negative effect upon them.

A lawyer has to have the skill for listening along with speaking to handle more and more clients but who listens to a lawyer and his issues? The question mark attached to this thought is indeed permanent. Some of the reasons which affect the mental health of legal professionals are listed below.

Immoderate working period

Working hours equally affects the physical and mental health of a professional. A professional dedicates a time period of about 45 hours towards the profession in a week. In the case of a lawyer, the working hours are not restricted to only 45 hours. A lawyer does not have flexible working hours in his profession. This is because the legal profession is not just a profession; rather it’s a calling, calling from society in order to remedy injustice.

The legal profession consists of various elements that a lawyer has to look into. These elements are research, arguments, the study of facts, and the finding of solutions. Whenever a client approaches a lawyer, the client brings in his problems, his sufferings and his demands from the court of law for the lawyer. Finding a proper legal principle that fits exactly in the case in hand takes a lot of time along with physical and mental investment. Therefore immoderate working hours that a lawyer has to go through affects mental health in a lot many ways.

Excessive working hours increase the tendency of a lawyer getting affected by psychological disorders. According to the American Bar Association, exhaustive working hours can open doors for diseases like insomnia, isolation, and increase in blood pressure levels. Several surveys conducted to take a note of the working hours of any profession have found that about 32% of the lawyers all across the world have worked for an additional 40 to 50 hours a week compared to any other profession. The survey also notified the public in general that about 62% of lawyers have been involved with work during their vacations as well.

While this being the portrait of lawyers who are practising in courts, the ones working in the firms have a different story to tell altogether. The lawyers who are working in big firms tend to work more than normal working hours due to the workload over them. In an article published by Western Journal of Legal Studies, a professor named Seto has argued that the lawyers who are working in recognised large firms tend to dedicate themselves to greater working hours in comparison with the lawyers who work under government entities.

Thus what can be inferred from the above statistics is that a majority of the population of lawyers have been facing mental health issues in their everyday life, the graph for which is showcasing an increasing trend. Excessive working periods lead to a negative impact on the body and mind of a person making it difficult for a man to balance his work life smoothly and this can be a stumbling block in the path of success for a lawyer.

The conflict between personal and professional life 

The two major symptoms of depression in legal professionals life as having been observed by a study conducted in Canada are:

  1. Excessive workload
  2. The conflict between the personal and the professional life of a lawyer

The work-life makes a lawyer get so engrossed with the professional life that he misses out time to be spent with families, friends, social gatherings etc. Along with the failure of maintaining a private life, lawyers have been prone to several health-related disorders due to their professional lifestyles. As lawyers have unpredictable schedules to go by, many of them fail terribly to look after their health because the body and the mind are connected with each other. 

A fit body and healthy lifestyles bring along a positive mindset which is necessary to be present in every individual. In cases of a lawyer, this does not happen due to which stress within the person increases leading to various mental disorders that have been discussed above. Stress, depression, anxiety disorders and addiction have a pessimistic effect on the legal profession. A lawyer always believes in making things correct and upright because of which they often follow the direction of being a perfectionist in what they do. When they are not mentally fit to work efficiently, they tend to make a lot of mistakes in their professional field which makes them lose persistence and patience from the profession.

A lawyer can sell only two things that are providing advice and time. The only way of refreshment for them from their increasing workload is by providing them with vacations, weekends and holidays so that they can feel better surrounded with family, friends and relatives rather than the everyday gloomy sight of courts. If there is an absence of balance between the work-life and personal life of the lawyers then the impact falls on both work life and the private life.

The lawyer tends to misbehave with his colleagues and his family, showing anger issues which affect mental health as a whole. For several new lawyers, it has been observed that being surrounded by the atmosphere of courts and other lawyers which itself is deeply depressing in nature, the well-being of mental health is difficult. 

Therefore in order to break this monotony, it is necessary to keep a balance of the professional and the personal life of a legal professional so he has to be mentally healthy and sound to carry on the profession with diligence and effectiveness. 

The legal environment 

The legal environment plays an immense role in contributing to the mental illness of any legal professional. The legal environment is made up of workload and severe competition among legal professionals. This competition, although necessary to increase the legal domain, proves to be disadvantageous for the physical and mental well-being of a lawyer.

Different areas of law have different levels of competition that a lawyer has to experience along with severe workload. A lot of law students are graduating from universities each year. This itself raises the competition in the legal market. If a lawyer is working in a firm then along with providing advice to the entity, he is also burdened with the responsibility of holding the recognition of the firm by his work culture. Not that there exists only one law firm, but several across the world and therefore in order to maintain the goodwill that is associated with a firm, the lawyer has to be a part of the competition mandatorily. If a lawyer practices in the court, then he has to be a part of the competition in order to be connected with as many clients as possible and this is possible by maintaining his brand name.

As competition becomes a part of a lawyer’s life from the very beginning of his career, the necessity to take care of his mental health is required significantly. Competition makes a man work more than he is supposed to. Going beyond one’s own potential hits hard on mental well-being because in a competition a person can be successful as well as be a loser depending on the consistency with which he is working. 

A study conducted in 2016 by the collaboration of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and American Bar Association Commission revealed that 19% of the lawyers facing competition were suffering from anxiety disorders and 28% of them were showing symptoms of depression. An attorney is considered to be the worst enemy of himself. In order to gain success, mental and physical well-being is brought to the stake. The work environment in which a lawyer is working is very important for that is the only source of all kinds of securities and amenities a lawyer gets to be it financial securities, self-identification, an opportunity to work towards remedying injustice from the society.

There are certain factors in the workplace that promote mental health and the psychosocial well being of the employees working in there. The mental health of lawyers working in a law firm or a corporate entity is also associated with the opportunity provided to the lawyers to participate in decision-making activity, take reasonable decisions independently, and provide impact on other employees working in the firm. These things encourage a lawyer to work more in a healthy and positive way. But the absence of these elements make a lawyer feel left out and lonely which is the beginning for a legal professional to suffer from depression, anxiety issues, psychological disorders etc. Taking care of mental health is also necessary to effectively use the available resources, develop and utilize skills in order to be successful in the profession. It should be the responsibility of the workplace along with the individual to promote and celebrate mental health.

A firm should look after its employee’s mental well-being because it is the presence of mind that regulates the work done by the employee and the effort delivered by the employee which helps in running the firm. Job stress occurs when the requirements of a job do not match with the available resources and the workforce of the entity. For a judge who is working in the judiciary of a country deciding on the matter as to which party is correct and subsequently favouring one party over the other providing justice to both involved in the case, has to invest a lot of emotions, thoughts and decisions in order to come to a conclusion. Therefore for a judge, it is required to maintain good mental health in order to avoid getting mentally drained due to the demands of the profession he is in.

For any profession, the presence of both physical and mental health in a good state is essentially ordered to carry out the profession successfully and willfully. Very few people realize the necessity of mental health because we prefer going for checkups for physical well-being only. The effects of having an unfit presence of mind in the workplace for a lawyer has been provided below:

  1. The rise in tension, fights, conflicts among colleagues.
  2. Loss of decision-making activity.
  3. Overall deterioration in work being carried out.
  4. The bad image in front of the clients.
  5. Increase in the number of mistakes committed while handling a case or discussing it.

It is necessary for every individual to love as to what work they do. Similarly, for a lawyer, the presence of mind is required in order to solve the case at hand and find a solution for the same. Remedying injustice is very easy to refer and say but is difficult to implement. A lawyer has to do the same therefore mental health among legal professionals is a subject that needs open discussion and reference.

At times lawyers refuse to open up about their mental health because of the preconceived thought that revealing about mental health would have a detrimental effect on their career. This idea also develops within a lawyer because the society has already created an image for all lawyers declaring them to be strong, fearless and helpful and therefore mental illness is too vulnerable for a lawyer to show and have.

If a lawyer is himself mentally unwell then who will regulate the wheel of justice is a major question that comes up, not how the lawyer will be affected because of his bad mental health. Because of this, lawyers often treat themselves in a rude and harsh way by thinking as to how society will accept him if he talks about his mental health. An unrealistic image of lawyers painted for the society is the root cause as to why lawyers have a stigma to talk about their mental health. This thought results in imposter syndrome among lawyers which makes them feel ashamed, lonely, unworthy creating a feeling of inadequacy within lawyers.

A lawyer comes with all varieties of clients on an everyday basis. The clients come from different backgrounds with different stories which are often traumatizing to hear and process. This activity lies on the lawyers part to listen to the client and process what he said in order to proceed with the case. Cases associated with sexual violence, physical mental torture, murder, kidnapping are indeed hard to listen to. If a lawyer is made to listen to such stories on a daily basis it becomes difficult for the lawyer to be mentally healthy.

Lawyers experience burnout by undertaking this emotionally draining work. In the process of handling the clients and their emotional outburst, a lawyer suffers from severe breakdowns and it becomes difficult for him to handle himself. Breakdowns often lead to early stages of depression among lawyers.

Lockdown’20 and mental health of legal professional

Mental health has been very much in discussion during this period of lockdown worldwide. A trend that is recently being followed among lawyers is trying to be productive during the times of the pandemic by ensuring that the grey cells of their associates remain active. 

To avoid wasting time, some lawyers are making their associates work on making business plans, writing articles on diversified legal topics and carrying out research works. This says that even during the time of the pandemic, lawyers are anxious to carry on their work in some way or the other. This also reveals the number of stress lawyers is in. Along with finding ways as to how to carry on their work, the lockdown because of the pandemic has brought in financial stress for lawyers across the world as well.

The legal profession involves everyday earning just like daily labourers who get wages after completing everyday assigned work. Especially for the lawyers practising in a court of law, the only source of income comes from the clients. Due to lockdown, courts have been shut down in order to maintain social distancing. This has led to the shut down of the legal profession as well. 

Several lawyers who are highly dependent on the profession and are new to the profession are facing severe economic problems. Financial stress is one such dangerous effect on the mind which disrupts the mental health of the person completely. Increase in anxiety disorder affects a person if also he is physically healthy and sound. Young lawyers who are away from their families are getting affected in a lot many ways for the fact that they are failing badly in coping with survival methods and carrying out legal works during these times of pandemic.

As courts go virtual to avoid delay in the administration of justice, several lawyers face the issue of not being acknowledged with technology much. As artificial intelligence has helped in setting up an alternative to open hearings, lawyers seem to be paralysed with the system of adjusting with it. This creates additional stress for the lawyers. This situation also includes peer pressure and a feeling of being inferior from those who are swiftly being able to access the virtual courts proceeding.

A UK legal mental health charity named LawCare has revealed that lawyers are having an increased amount of feeling of being insecure financially and professionally which is taking a toll on their health as well. Lack of interaction and self-isolation has been the major negative element that the lockdown has gifted to the lawyers. Female lawyers are facing mental issues compared to that of men during this lockdown. This is because being at home as everyone idealizes, a female is supposed to carry out all the household chores along with her professional work. This proves to be stressful for a female leading to sleep deprivation, anxiety disorders, misbehaviour with family members and will professional colleagues etc. 

Ways to cope with mental health issues of legal professionals

Some of the ways to cope with mental health issues of legal professionals are listed hereunder:

  1. Mental health issues can be best resolved by talking and open discussions. Several law firms are working towards creating an environment which is employee-friendly and which will allow them to talk and discuss mental health freely in order to overcome any kind of stigma associated with mental health. Law firms are trying to keep up the morals of the young lawyers who are away in the profession so as to safeguard him from getting mentally affected in the very beginning of his career. Technology is being used in a good way to increase communications among employees so as to not make them feel isolated and depressed.
  2. Social media have turned out to be of great help for the lawyers who want to open up about their mental health. People at large across the world are as well supporting them for doing so. Several firms are providing sessions, therapies and talk shows which can motivate an individual to develop a healthy and positive mental health so that they can be produced to deliver the correct work they are designated to do.
  3. Another way of taking care of mental health is through exercises and yoga. Stress can reduce through doing yoga postures or regularly exercising for a stipulated period of time. This helps in erasing away a lot of overthinking that affects the professional field in a lot many ways. Lawyers should do exercise in order to feel positive and better in any surrounding he or she may be. More than surrounding, it is the perception of a lawyer as to how to treat mental health which affects the body and the mind of the individual.
  4. Reading often helps in reducing burdens from the shoulder. The work of a lawyer involves a lot of reading and researching. A lawyer, along with professional reading, should also make reading for self-pleasure a habit so as to avoid feeling stressed, depressed and lonely. 
  5. Lawyers in the haste of building a successful career forget to practice their hobbies and likings in the long run. Doing something that can relax the body and the mind should be adapted by lawyers in order to remain out of the ambit of mental illness.

These are some of the ways to cope with mental health disorders but a thing to be noticed is that ways to cope with mental health issues should not be limited by few points as have been provided above rather it should be on the lawyer himself to find ways to be physically fit and mentally healthy. 


Mental health is a subject that should be of equal importance to that of physical health. Traditionally speaking, mental health has always been viewed as a person being mad or is not according to the conventions of society. Mental health is way more than just being mad. It is a necessary part of the human body. Our brain needs importance because that helps us to think and without thinking a person cannot proceed with any work, activity or profession. Same goes for the lawyers. Lawyers are also human therefore it is time they must be heard and thought about. Protecting and regulating law is their work and understanding and listening to them is ours. Mental health should not be ignored but should be adopted and thought about. 


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