Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, LLP took a leading step in the fight for mental health and wellness in the legal profession today, announcing that they have joined the inaugural class of the American Bar Association’s Well-Being Campaign.
According to the ABA, recent studies show that lawyers struggle with problems of isolation, mental health distress and substance abuse at substantially higher levels than the general population and other highly-educated professionals.
“By committing to the ABA’s Well-Being Pledge Campaign, we’re demonstrating our commitment to support well-being and mental health – and address addiction and substance abuse – in the legal profession,” said founder and managing partner John B. Quinn. “This is an important issue to our firm – and a personal one to our people.”
In March 2018, Joseph Milowic III, an IP partner in New York City, wrote of his struggles with depression in the New York Law Journal. He urged other lawyers with problems to come forward and seek help, regretting that he had “put financial security above the possibility that speaking up could alert a young attorney unknowingly suffering from depression that what he is suffering through is an illness that is treatable.” Following the article, Milowic founded the Lawyers Depression Project (“LDP”), offering an online support group and aimed at addressing depression and other mental health issues in the legal profession. The group hosts a confidential forum at www.knowtime.com and weekly online peer-to-peer support group meetings, offering members the option of anonymity.
Depression and substance abuse in the legal profession are not new. However, a fresh willingness to acknowledge and tackle them is critical to eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health and substance issues in the legal profession.
The goal of “The Pledge Campaign” is to raise awareness, facilitate a reduction in problematic substance-use and mental health distress, and improve lawyer well-being through the use of an employer pledge. From education to policies to culture, the seven-point pledge, outlined below, identifies core areas on which firms should focus and the concrete steps they should take as they seek to achieve those goals:
1. Provide enhanced and robust education to attorneys and staff on well-being, mental health, and substance use disorders.
2. Reduce the expectation of alcohol at firm events by seeking creative alternatives and ensuring that non-alcoholic alternatives are always available.
3. Partner with outside providers who are committed to reducing substance use disorders and mental health distress in the profession.
4. Provide confidential access to addiction and mental health experts and resources to all employees, including free, in-house self-assessment tools.
5. Develop proactive policies and protocols to support assessment and treatment of substance use and mental health problems, including a defined back-to-work policy following treatment.
6. Show that the firm’s core values include taking care of yourself and getting help when needed by regularly & actively supporting programs to improve physical, mental and emotional well-being.
7. Use this pledge, and the firm’s commitment to these principles, to attract and retain the best lawyers and staff.
“At Quinn Emanuel, we recognize that stress is a component of this job. We are excited to see the ABA pushing law firms to create an environment that recognizes and offers support for these problems,” Quinn said.