By Aaron H. Wallace, Esq.
Pardon the tongue-in-cheek headline, but it’s inspired by real headlines like this one:
- Being a Lawyer Will Probably Ruin Your Social Life: Work/Life Balance Is a Myth in the Legal Profession (Above the Law, 2014)
- Lawyers Rank Highest on ‘Loneliness Scale,’ Study Finds (ABA Journal, 2018)
- Battling an Epidemic of Loneliness Among Lawyers (Law.com, 2019)
If you’re among the whopping 61% of lawyers who report above-average levels of loneliness, you might have already resigned yourself to isolation-born-from-busyness as an unfortunate “reality” of the profession.
Perhaps that’s true. But it shouldn’t be. And it doesn’t have to be. There are lawyers (nearly 4 out of 10) who report having healthy social lives with deep and fulfilling relationships, whether in the form of family, friends, or both. Just as importantly, pervasive loneliness in the profession is not sustainable and even jeopardizes the public’s trust in our trade. So something’s got to give.
Reimagining the legal profession as one that fosters deep and intimate connections between lawyers — and also makes it possible for those lawyers to build personal relationships outside the field — begins with challenging fundamental assumptions about lonely lawyers. It also requires educating adults on how to make new friendships post-adolescence, which is a lesson almost everyone could use, but perhaps lawyers especially.
Our article endeavors to lay a little groundwork for both.
Not All Lawyers Are Extroverts. Not All Lawyers Need to Be.
The lonely lawyer problem might stem in part from an assumption that lawyers are inherently social creatures: orators, room-workers, rainmakers, rhetoricians extraordinaires. But while it’s true that communication is part of the job, our profession is too large to be populated by a singular personality type. In Florida alone, there are more than 108,000 members of the state bar. What are the chances they’re all extroverts?
We need newfound awareness that not all our compatriots flourish in friendship without any effort. Besides, even the most charismatic and outgoing among us cannot sustain intimate connections if we don’t have time to spend on them. Time is the only water that grows relationship.
I’d like to encourage my fellow lawyers to recognize that we all deserve time to spend with the people we care about. That means we need to support each other in making that time possible. To that end, law firms can visit the resources at the Institute for Well-Being in Law to promote better social health for associates and other employees.
Loneliness Is Not Exclusively a BigLaw Problem.
You might think that all the lonely lawyers are BigLaw associates, working a hundred hours on a slow week with no time to look for love while climbing the ladder. Alternatively, you might assume that it’s the solo lawyer who struggles for connection, always working to keep that shingle hanging but without any cubicle colleagues to commiserate with.
The data tells us that neither assumption is true, or rather, that both of them are. Firm size makes very little difference in the lonely lawyer data. Neither do salary, gender, race, ethnicity, or geographic location. For a word that implies being alone, “lonely” sure seems to describe a lot of lawyers.
Those facts can be comforting in their assurance that you actually are not alone. But they’re sobering, too, and they amount to an urgent call to action.
Good Lawyers Are Emotionally Fulfilled
The power and promise of Well-Being Week in Law is in its transformative perspective on the whole concept of lawyer excellence. What we now know is that healthy and happy lawyers make the best lawyers.
Fostering social and emotional well-being is good for everyone, from the licensing and ethics boards to the law firm, the individual lawyer, and the client. It’s even good for entities like ours at Florida Lawyers Mutual, where we provide professional liability insurance to Florida lawyers, because we know that healthy and contented lawyers are less likely to face claims.
Social well-being is good for both goose and gander, so let’s give it our attention — not just during Well-Being Week in Law, but from here on out.
About Florida Lawyers Mutual
As the only professional liability insurance company created by The Florida Bar, Florida Lawyers Mutual is a company that exists for just one purpose: protecting Florida lawyers. We offer high-quality Policy Features that give our members confidence and peace of mind, coupled with Member Benefits that offer real value beyond the cost of a policy — including a cyber liability endorsement and an extensive library of free CLE. We are committed to lawyer well-being and to building long-term relationships with our members, built on service and trust. Apply for a policy today.
Today is Social Well-Being Day in Law, part of a weeklong initiative by the ABA and IWIL to promote improvements in lawyers’ health and wellness. At Florida Lawyers Mutual, we want our members (and ALL Florida lawyers) to know that your well-being matters, and you deserve to make it a priority.