In response to the prevalence of mental and physical health challenges and substance use among lawyers, the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) has launched an Attorney Well-Being Task Force to advance an innovative and comprehensive culture of wellness across all levels of the legal profession.
“Studies have shown rates of mental illness, fatigue, physical health problems, and substance use for attorneys that far exceed the national averages for other professions,” said NYSBA President Scott M. Karson. “We need to eliminate the stigma associated with mental health treatment and make it easier for all lawyers to seek out the help that they need. We all must recognize that the mental and physical well-being of attorneys is critical to the effective practice of law, protection of the public trust and the vibrancy of our profession.”
Karson, who became the 123rd NYSBA president on June 1, plans to make attorney well-being a significant focus of his tenure in this leadership role.
Hon. Karen Peters, former presiding justice of the Appellate Division, Third Department, and Libby Coreno, a Saratoga Springs attorney, will co-chair the task force, which will be comprised of nine working groups, each dedicated to a specific wellness issue. They are: Emotional Well-Being, Physical Well-Being, Substance Use and Addiction, Law Culture and Employment, Law Education, Bar Associations, Judiciary and the Courts, Public Trust and Ethics and Continuing Legal Education.
“The task force will examine factors that negatively impact the health and well-being of the legal community and develop a report detailing attainable, measurable recommendations for mitigation efforts, which can be implemented across New York’s legal landscape,” Justice Peters said. “The task force’s final report will serve as a practical, evidence-based resource to educate, support and empower all members of the legal community – from law students through retirees.”
“The prevalence of mental health issues, stress related ailments and addiction among lawyers is deeply troubling and necessarily out of alignment with a profession charged with the public trust,” said Coreno. “In our profession, it is of paramount importance that NYSBA address these fundamentally important issues in a real, meaningful, and holistic way.”
The Attorney Well-Being Task Force’s nine working groups are based on areas identified by empirical data as impacting attorney well-being. Each will have its own chair and will independently develop recommendations in its respective area. The entire task force will then work together to synthesize information from each working group into a final report.
The nine working groups and chairs are as follows:
- Law Education – Rosemary Queenan, associate dean for student affairs and a professor at Albany Law School
- Law Culture & Employment – Kathryn Grant Madigan, Levene Gouldin & Thompson and a past NYSBA president
- Physical Well-Being – Robert Herbst, general counsel
- Emotional Well-Being – Meredith Heller, Law Office of Meredith S. Heller
- Substance Use & Addiction – Hon. Sallie Krause, Acting Justice of the Supreme Court at New York City Family Court (Retired)
- Judiciary and the Courts – Hon. Stan Pritzker, Associate Justice, Appellate Division, Third Department
- Public Trust & Ethics – Marian Rice, L’Abbate, Balkan, Colavita & Contini
- Bar Associations – Glenn Lau-Kee, Lau-Kee Law Groups and a past NYSBA president
- Continuing Legal Education – James Barnes, Burke & Casserly
Additionally, to help cope with the additional stress and anxiety during these uncertain times brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, lawyers, judges and law students from across the state can participate in a free and confidential support group held weekly on Thursdays at 4 p.m. via Zoom. Click here for more information.
About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, NYSBA has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.
Contact: Susan DeSantis