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The law is a demanding profession. Many of these demands are inherent in the profession. However, there are often artificial, unnecessary, or outmoded barriers that prevent lawyers from being able to perform at their best.

  • A 2016 study of 13,000 currently practicing lawyers found that between 21% and 36% qualify as problem drinkers and 19% to 28% are struggling with significant levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.[1]
  • These problems lead to high absenteeism and under-productive lawyers resulting in high costs to law firms.[2] 
  • Lawyers are leaving law firms at higher rates than ever before. In 2017, law firms lost to attrition an average of 16% associates annually. Forty-four percent of associates leave within three years and 75% leave within five years.[3]
  • According to one estimate, the cost of replacing a departing associate ranges from $200,000 to $500,000, or roughly 1.5 to 2 times the annual salary of the associate. This only estimates hard costs and may not include lost productivity, other lawyers’ time, and disrupted intrafirm and client relationships

In response to growing awareness of this concern, the Colorado Supreme Court’s Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being (launched in 2018) brought together nearly sixty lawyers, judges, law school deans, law students, and mental health professionals with talent, experience, and leadership to tackle the issue of improving lawyer well-being in this state. Over the course of eighteen months, the Task Force generated concrete steps to be taken to promote well-being among the more than 40,000 registered Colorado lawyers.

The Colorado Supreme Court Well-Being Recognition Program is a step forward in shifting the culture of well-being in Colorado’s legal profession. Through this Pilot Program, the Colorado Supreme Court will assess strategies to incentivize and recognize solo-practitioners and legal employers for implementing within their organizations well-being strategies and recommendations encompassing six specific goal areas.

The Recognition Program provides participants with access to education, resources, support, and technical assistance to incorporate well-being strategies into their organizations. Additionally, the Pilot creates a Legal Well-Being Leadership Network to encourage dialogue, innovation and accountability in implementing well-being practices in legal workplaces.

The Recognition Program is based upon a collective impact model, which provides strategies to create collaboration across solo practitioners, law firms, government offices, non-profits, and corporate legal organizations to achieve significant and lasting social change. Utilizing this framework, the Pilot Program collects feasibility data on the Program’s ability to promote lawyer well-being, educate and recognize participants, and support Colorado legal employers in achieving well-being objectives through a robust community network.

For more information, review the full Task Force Proposal for the Colorado Supreme Court Lawyer Well-Being Recognition Program and the The American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation survey on lawyer well-being.

[1] Patrick R. Krill, Ryan Johnson, & Linda Albert, The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorneys, 10 J. ADDICTION MED. 46 (2016).

[2] Jarrod F. Reich, Capitalizing on Healthy Lawyers: The Business Case for Law Firms to Promote and Prioritize Lawyer Well-Being, Geo. Univ. Law Center (2019), available at http://scholarship.law.georgetown.edu/facpub.2193 and https://ssrn.com/abstract=3438029.

[3] NALP Foundation, Update on Associate Attrition 12 tbl. 6 (2017).

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