Saturday, March 3, 2007

Up...and really down.

I spent Thursday and Friday in all-day CLEs. For those of you who are not attorneys (which you should count as a blessing), that stands for Continuing Legal Education. I am required to complete 15 hours a year of CLEs, 3 hours of which must be on the topic of Ethics. I personally find it sad that the Bar doesn't require more hours in ethics, but it is what it is. Anyway, yesterday, I earned 13.5 credits, which is great because I only needed 3.25 to finish out my required hours for this year. The credits roll over though so I am good on CLEs for quite some time.

I learned some very inte resting things over the last two days. First of all, the CLE was sponsored by TYLA, which is the Texas Young Lawyers Association. Those people really know how to put on a CLE! For one thing, it was extremely cheap as CLEs go. I paid $165 for both days. Generally, this type of CLE spanning two days would cost around $300. Secondly, it was held at the Sheraton Brookhollow Hotel in Houston, which was very nice and also catered the breakfast and lunch that was provided. It was excellent food, which is the mark of any good hotel as far as I'm concerned;)

Back to the important stuff: one of the topics covered was the mental health of l wyers. Now, it's generally assumed that anyone who would voluntarily suffer through law school and the bar exam is crazy, but let's set that aside for the moment. This particular CLE focused more on lawyers and depression and cited some interesting research: A study by Johns Hopkins University of 105 professions placed lawyers at the top of the list for incidence of major depression. Depression, as we all know, can lead to suicide. The CLE materials stated that lawyers are 6 times more likely to be successful in committing suicide than the general population.

When we lawyers set out to do something, we do it right. Ok, I'm done being tacky about a serious topic.

Why lawyers are more depressed than the general population is up for debate. A lot of articles cite the perfectionism inherent in the career, the pessimism, the long working hours. There are so many possibilities, but in the end, we have to ask ourselves what we can do to help each other? The first line of defense is doing what lawyers do best: talking.

We need to talk to each other, ask what is happening at work, at home. Take a genuine interest in the answers given to those questions. Because the depression rate is so high among lawyers, it's likely that someone in the firm or in the professional groups can relate to the feelings. There truly is strength (and comfort) in numbers. It's also important to note that effective treatment is out there. Everything from therapy to medication to support groups.

As attorneys, we are used to solving the often complex problems of others. It's time we turned that energy inward to our profession and solved our own. Doing so can literally be characterized as being of life and death importance.

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