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<xTITLE>The Law Can Be Dangerous to Lawyers' Mental Health</xTITLE>

The Law Can Be Dangerous to Lawyers' Mental Health

by John Lande
January 2020

Indisputably

John Lande

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  The law can be a very dangerous thing.

Although the legal system inevitably is imperfect, it sometimes provides important benefits such as helping people solve difficult problems, making institutions function properly, and promoting justice.

Unfortunately, the litigation process needed to achieve these goals often is extremely stressful for litigants, as Michaela Keet, Heather Heavin, and I describe in our book, Litigation Interest and Risk Assessment: Help Your Clients Make Good Litigation Decisions.

And lawyers often experience vicarious trauma from representing clients, so says a new article in the ABA Journal, When Caring Costs You: Lawyers Can Experience Vicarious Trauma from Work.

The article lists various areas of practice where clients – and thus lawyers – are especially vulnerable to trauma, including bankruptcy, criminal law, personal injury, and family law.  But intense, prolonged conflict in any type of dispute can be stressful for everyone concerned.

That’s one of the reasons that so many of us have been attracted to the dispute resolution field – to reduce the damage caused by conflict and litigation.  Not only parties suffer stress, but also do lawyers, law students, and law professors.  So we all need to take care of ourselves and others.

The ABA Journal article concludes: “Vicarious trauma, along with other mental illnesses, needs to be discussed starting in law school, and seeking help for these issues should be normalized.  On an organizational level, law firms, bar associations, public defender offices and district attorney’s offices should regularly address lawyer well-being and make it a priority.  Lawyers are not immune from mental health issues, and struggling with vicarious trauma isn’t a personal failing.  It’s simply a sign that you’re human.”

Biography


John Lande is the Isidor Loeb Professor Emeritus at the University of Missouri School of Law and former director of its LLM Program in Dispute Resolution.  He received his J.D. from Hastings College of Law and Ph.D in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He began mediating professionally in 1982 in California. He was a fellow at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and the Director of the Mediation Program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law School. His work focuses on various aspects of dispute systems design, including publications analyzing how lawyering and mediation practices transform each other, business lawyers’ and executives’ opinions about litigation and ADR, designing court-connected mediation programs, improving the quality of mediation practice, the “vanishing trial,” and planned early negotiation.   The International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution gave him its award for best professional article for Principles for Policymaking about Collaborative Law and Other ADR Processes, 22 Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution 619 (2007). The ABA recently published his book, Lawyering with Planned Early Negotiation: How You Can Get Good Results for Clients and Make Money.  His website, where you can download his publications, is http://www.law.missouri.edu/lande.



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