Lawyers: Experiencing Pessimism and High Stress

Running LawyersAdvocacy is a very unique profession in which there is always a sense of urgency and low resilience. A study presented at the IBA describes the demanding and stressful work environment of lawyers in a very competitive profession.

Being a business lawyer is one of the best paid professions in the world, especially if you get to the status of becoming a partner. In addition, many business lawyers enjoy prestige and success in their professional front of large operations and important lawsuit careers. Some are recognized, praised and even rewarded. Yet much of these professionals are not happy.

A survey in the US showed that 52% of practicing lawyers are described as dissatisfied and the problem is not economic. Besides being disenchanted, lawyers have greater risk than other workers for depression, even fresh out of law school.

A survey conducted by Johns Hopkins showed a major depressive disorder in three of the 104 surveyed occupants. Lawyers topped the list, suffering from depression at a rate 3.6 times higher than any other worker. Furthermore, it was found that lawyers also suffer from alcoholism and illicit drug use at a much higher rate than other professions.

70% of US lawyers are potential candidates to have alcohol problems

In the global meeting of the International Bar Association-IBA (the largest association of lawyers in the world), held last October in Tokyo, this disturbing data was presented to everyone that was on board. High levels of stress have resulted in 70% of lawyers, according to a study in the US-is a potential candidate for alcohol problems in their career and 26% had used cocaine, twice the general population (as reference in Spain 18% of 18 year olds had done in the last year). Even some lawyers regularly appear with symptoms to go drunk in US courts when disputing cases. Therefore, many law schools have implemented psychological support programs for these people.

A Tough and Demanding Profession

Juan San Andrés, psychologist and consultant in productivity, organization and human factors, says that “no law student is warned of the risks to their health for choosing to become a lawyer.” Is this profession as tough and demanding as to produce these behavioral disorders? The answer seems to be yes. The practice requires many hours a day, and lawyers are often working under pressure and the frequent need to attend social events which should not be confused with parties-‘.

San Andrés describes the profile of the lawyer as someone “introverted, very competitive, concerned about his professional reputation, with a desire to exert influence or social authority, suspicious and critical – a factor of paranoia – for power. In these circumstances, the problem with alcohol or other psychoactive substances is easy to anticipate. “For example, adds San Andrés, alcohol can be a life raft as it acts as a thalamic-cortical disinhibitor (this means it acts as a partially released habitual behavior control and makes the lawyer more ‘sociable’).

Depression and Anxiety

Lidia Zommer, managing partner of the consulting group “Mirada 360”, also ensures that “lawyers work in a very demanding and stressful sector undergoing long hours of work, urgent deadlines and a great deal of pressure that often prevent a balanced life. The consequences of this chronic stress of this profession include ranging from psychological problems such as depression and anxiety, to even physical health, or substance abuse.”

The modern high pressure legal sector increase stress, experts say

However, it is virtually impossible to find studies especially related to the consumption of alcohol or cocaine for lawyers. Professional consultant and professor of IE Law School services, Marisa Mendez said that although “There is no conclusive data for us, American studies do indicate that lawyers are leading these sad classifications. This has much to do with that advocacy that it’s a very personal profession with high levels of pessimism and always have a sense of urgency, low sociability and low resilience ‘.

Pessimism is the leading cause of dissatisfaction among lawyers and yet, it is implicit in the profession that has led even to achieve greater professional accomplishments to see many topics with more prudent achievements.


Can you do something to mitigate the risks of stress and avoid depression? María Jesús González-Espejo, managing partner of Emprendelaw, is sure of it and says that “there are techniques that help achieve this, such as training programs that impact not only on efficiency, but also in the happiness of professionals. Playing sports, exercise or relaxation techniques devote time to activities that have nothing to do with the profession of lawyer also help control stress. ”

He adds González-Espejo, “the law must have 360º assessments, personality test or quality surveys, which show information about their behaviors and thus allows anticipation for future actions.”

More Psychopathic Professions

According to the book ‘The Wisdom of Psychopaths’, Everything serial murderers can teach us about life (Ariel) published In 2012 by professor and psychologist Kevin Dutton, there are some more likely than others to the development of psychopathy professions. These personality disorders or abnormalities that pathologically altered social behavior of the individual can be reduced tolerance to stress, lack of empathy, insensitivity, lack of guilt, selfishness, manipulation, irresponsibility, impulsivity and antisocial behaviors, as a parasitic lifestyle and crime.

According to this book, the legal profession is the second where you can find more psychopaths, after the CEO. Third, the profession of media, radio, and television, followed by the seller and the surgeon stands. The fifth through tenth professions that are more likely to develop psychopathic symptoms are: journalists, police officers, clergymen, chefs and domestic staff.

Difficult to Reconcile Work and Personal Life

One consequence of this type of work, long hours and the intrinsic stress in the legal profession is the difficult balance to balance work and personal life in many cases. This is larger in women, who, according to surveys still bear the brunt of most household and raising children.

Often these circumstances occur family losses caused by the absence at home, or legal counsel. The divorce rate, for lawyers, especially in women, is higher. Who are among other professionals, according to US rankings.

What are your thoughts on this touchy subject?

Any ideas on how we can start a trend of change?

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