Lawyer Wellness

New research examines attorneys' sense of work value and health

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Corrected: Lawyers who perceive they are most valued for their financial performance and productivity could be more likely to increase drug and alcohol use than those who feel valued for their professionalism and skills, according to a study released Friday.

“These lawyers also tend to work the longest hours, something that is well correlated with problem drinking,” said Patrick Krill, one of the study’s authors, about attorneys who feel most valued for their financial performance, in an email Monday to the ABA Journal.

Titled People, Professionals, and Profit Centers: The Connection Between Lawyer Well-Being and Employer Values, the study comprised 1,959 attorneys who are members of the District of Columbia Bar and the California Lawyers Association. It was conducted from May 2020 to June 2020.

Among respondents, 62.4% reported feeling valued for their professionalism and skills, 27.5% said they were valued by their financial worth, and 10.1% felt unvalued. The article is published in the 2022 Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute’s Behavioral Sciences journal.

According to Krill, the study determined respondents’ health with the Perceived Stress Scale—a commonly used test that focuses on how often people find life unpredictable, uncontrollable and overloaded—and the 12-Item Short-Form Health Survey. Referred to as the SF-12, it measures health concepts, including body pain and role limitations because of physical health and emotional problems.

Among respondents who felt valued for their professionalism and skills, 14.79% reported high perceived stress scores, compared to 17.43% of the lawyers who felt valued by their financial worth and 19.34% who saw themselves as unvalued at work.

The study also breaks down categories by race and gender.

Of the respondents who felt valued for their professionalism and skills, 82.9% were white, 6.7% were Asian or Pacific Islander, 4.4% were Black, 3% were Latino, 1.8% were multiracial and 0.2% were Native American.

A total of 1,959 lawyers were in the survey pool, which appears to have many more white respondents than people of color. For the perceived value category, according to the article, 1,579 respondents were white, 134 were Asian or Pacific Islander, 96 were Black, 72 were Latino or Hispanic, 45 were multiracial and three were Native American.

While acknowledging that the number of people of color in the survey pool is small, Krill told the ABA Journal that it seems generally consistent with demographics for the profession.

By gender, of the respondents who feel most valued for their professionalism and skills, 46.9% were women and 52.3% were men.


Updated on June 14 to fix incorrectly calculated percentages. The ABA Journal regrets the error.
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