Another dark side of law practice, but a core of great price

When they enter law school, law students experience depression and substance abuse in about the same proportions as everybody else (about 8% of the population). But, by the time they graduate, 40% of law students are clinically depressed. (This percentage drops in subsequent years, but remains a multiple of rates for the general population.)albatross

Professor Brian Clarke brought this news to Brooks Pierce last week. The assertion that law school generates depression at such high levels is both hard to believe, and almost impossible not to respond to with a sardonic quip about law schools.

EXCEPT, Professor Clarke supports his claim with data. Clarke, Brian S., Coming Out in the Classroom: Law Professors, Law Students and Depression (August 1, 2014). Journal of Legal Education, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN.  AND, depression and substance abuse are perhaps beyond the purview of quips and sarcasm.

Professor Clarke’s presentation at Brooks Pierce, “The Dark Side of the Practice of Law, a Mental Health Program for Lawyers,” was sponsored by the North Carolina Lawyer Assistance Program. It was engaging and useful and about as upbeat as the dark side can be.

Clarke’s news comes even as advice to stay away from law school is redoubling (“most law students are in for disappointment when they graduate”).

This winter of our profession’s discontent.

And yet it is hard – no, impossible – not to admire the courage and grit and service of lawyers like Brian Clarke and Louis Allen and Kathy Klotzberger and John Sarratt and many others associated with the Lawyer Assistance Program. They are pearls of great price.

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