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News Item
Supreme Court Hosts Call to Action for Lawyer Well-Being Event

Posted: Monday, March 4, 2019

Supreme Court Hosts Call to Action for Lawyer Well-Being Event

The Minnesota Supreme Court led a call to action for lawyer well-being Thursday afternoon at St. Thomas University. The event was attended by more than 245 invited judicial officers, lawyers, and human resources professionals from the public sector, organization leaders of large, small, and solo law firms, and in-house counsel from Minnesota businesses. The three-and-a-half hour event was organized to bring attention to the crisis of lawyer well-being and spur action by those in attendance. Attendees were encouraged to be aware of the crisis, review their work environments for barriers to lawyer well-being, and sign a pledge to take action to promote lawyer wellness.
 
Minnesota was home to 29,466 active and inactive attorneys in 2017. The American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation published a study in August 2017 that found lawyers, particularly younger lawyers in their first 10 years of practice, are grappling with serious barriers to well-being. According to the report, between 21 and 36 percent of lawyers in the study qualify as problem drinkers and 28 percent are struggling with some level of depression. Suicide, social alienation, work addiction, sleep deprivation, job dissatisfaction, diversity crises, work-life conflict, incivility, a narrowing of values so that profit predominates, and negative public perception were all sited as major difficulties lawyers are facing. 
 
“The report makes it clear that the legal profession is in serious need of self-reflection, healing, and meaningful change,” said Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea. “If we fail to respond to these devastating levels of mental and chemical health issues, we risk our profession’s reputation, the public’s trust in the legal profession, and the ability to attract bright young minds to the profession.”
 
The call to action started with welcoming remarks from Chief Justice Gildea and the case for action laid out by Patrick Krill, the lead author of the report on lawyer well-being. Attendees then broke out into guided discussions based on their workplace organization. The event concluded with the Chair of the American Bar Association Law Practice Divisions Attorney Well-Being Committee, Anne Brafford, discussing overcoming barriers to wellness, and a call to action for Minnesota lawyer well-being from Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice David L. Lillehaug.
 
“The Court hopes that all participants heard our call and left inspired to take concrete steps to encourage wellness. We’ll be following up with them over the next year,” said Justice Lillehaug.
 
Event leaders included: Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea, Justice David L. Lillehaug, Justice G. Barry Anderson, Minnesota Court of Appeals Chief Judge Edward Cleary, Dakota County Judge Karen Asphaug, Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Executive Director Joan Bibelhausen, the Minnesota Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility Chair Robin Wolpert, the Minnesota Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility Director Susan Humiston, 3M General Counsel Ivan Fong, the American Bar Association Law Practice Division’s Attorney Well-Being Committee Chair Anne Brafford, and Patrick Krill, a nationally recognized expert in mental health, addition, and well-being issues in the legal profession.
 
Further information about the event, event materials, and lawyer well-being can now be found on the Minnesota Judicial Branch website.