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Massachusetts Lawyer Well-Being Study

FXJF4E The Golden Dome of The Massachusetts State House,Boston Common, Boston, MA , USA
Understand lawyer well-being and how it varies by demographics, employment type, and workplace environment
  • Client
    Board of Bar Overseers Massachusetts
  • Dates
    January 2021 - May 2023

Problem

Assessing lawyer well-being in Massachusetts.

Recent studies have highlighted burnout, anxiety, depression, and hazardous or unhealthy alcohol use among lawyers. In response, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court established a permanent Standing Committee on Lawyer Well-Being to assess the well-being of Massachusetts lawyers, recommend ways to improve it, and monitor progress.

Solution

Examine lawyer well-being in Massachusetts and establish community-generated recommendations.

NORC worked with Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, Massachusetts, a nonprofit lawyer assistance program, with input from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Lawyer Well-Being (“Standing Committee”), to examine lawyer well-being in Massachusetts and how it varied by demographics, employment characteristics, and workplace environmental factors. The study also sought to understand barriers to mental health and substance use care and offer recommendations for policies and programs to improve lawyer well-being. NORC conducted a literature review, convened focus groups with lawyers in private and public sectors, and fielded a survey to all lawyers registered in Massachusetts.

Result

Develop insights to inform future policies and programs related to lawyer well-being.

A majority of Massachusetts lawyers (77%) reported burnout from their work. The survey also identified high rates of anxiety (26%), depression (21%), suicidal ideation (7%), and unhealthy alcohol use (42%). Differences in well-being outcomes varied by demographics; attorneys from marginalized groups had high rates of burnout, anxiety, and depression. However, the survey also identified that a majority of Massachusetts lawyers reported overall satisfaction with their lives (66%).

Analysis of survey findings found an alarming gap between lawyers who reported anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and hazardous or unhealthy alcohol use and those who sought care. In addition, there were strong associations between experiencing bias, harassment, and discrimination in the workplace and experiencing vicarious trauma through legal work with poor well-being outcomes. Lawyers who have supportive work environments benefited from protective factors, such as being treated with kindness and respect by colleagues, positive supervisor relationships, supportive colleagues, schedule flexibility, time to recharge, access to mentorship, and opportunities for promotion.

NORC, the Standing Committee, and Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Massachusetts released a report in February 2023 and have been disseminating the work to interested organizations, bar associations, firms, government agencies, and well-being committees in Massachusetts through presentations, discussions, and listening sessions. The report findings and these discussions will inform the next steps for this work.

Project Leads

  • Jenna T. Sirkin

    Principal Research Scientist
    Principal Investigator & Project Director

Other Project Leads

Jared Sawyer
Deputy Project Director

 

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