Yesterday our office held a conference at the Menzies hotel, with a number of speakers talking about issues pertinent to the area of public prosecutions as well as the legal profession more generally. Though I found a number of the speakers interesting, it was the last speaker who captured my attention most. His topic was "Mental Wellness in the Legal Profession", and he spoke about some of the ways that we as legal practitioners can reduce the risk of mental illness in our careers.
It should come as no surprise to people that the law is a stressful profession, but I found the following statistics from a survey quite surprising:
- 15 percent of legal practitioners identified as alcoholics, although I suspect that the real figure is actually somewhat higher than this.
- 11 percent of legal practitioners contemplated committing suicide in the last month
I must admit that I found that second figure incredibly shocking.
The speaker then proceeded to suggest different coping strategies that legal practitioners could employ to maintain their sanity. One of these ways is to profoundly change the way you think about your relationship to legal practice. He suggested that for some, seeing their role as a lawyer as being a healer of people who come to them with problems, rather than as a means to make money proved to be beneficial. I must admit that I feel very comfortable with this paradigm, since making a lot of money has never been one of my ambitions.
Looking at the value that people gave to their careers, I think it would be interesting to know if their were any significant differences between Christian and non-Christian lawyers. Of course, one must be cautious to use generalisations, but I would imagine that one's values and philosophies would impact upon the way that one relates to their career. For instance, while as a perfectionist I take pride in the work that I do and seek to do it as well as I can, work still does not hold the first place in my life. Some would see this as a lack of ambition, but I can't help but think that there are more important things in life that spending fourteen hours a day in an office. Nor do I see the need to constantly prove myself to others. While I certainly have other demons that require healing, I can't help but think that my faith is what has primarily influenced the way I think about my career and I am grateful for my faith in this respect.