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Depression stalks the legal profession

        I guess I sort of knew it was coming. For many years I wrote about lawyers for The Miami Herald. For the most part, they are a Type A bunch who work hard and make good money and don't really embrace work/life balance. But this has been a real tough time in the legal industry as huge accounts have disappeared overnight. Many lawyers now find themselves laid off, out of work with nothing to do, and struggling to come to terms with their new reality.

     Law.com reports that lawyer assistance programs for depression and substance abuse are reporting that laid-off attorneys,  struggling solo practitioners, third-year law students without jobs lined up and others have been reaching out for help more than ever before. Lawyers with pre-existing problems are being pushed over the edge by the added stress of the slow economy, they said. The pressure was underscored by the apparent suicide on Thursday of Kilpatrick Stockton attorney Mark Levy, who reportedly had been laid off from the firm.

    The National Law Journal says The Illinois Lawyers' Assistance Program had its busiest month on record in April. The organization, which helps attorneys deal with problems like depression and substance abuse, had 42 new referrals -- nearly twice the monthly average in 2008.

     To make matters worse, here come more lawyers. The nation's 200 accredited law schools will spit out 43,000 graduates next month. The upshot is a massive pile-up of attorneys looking for work in an environment that is pitting would-be attorneys against more experienced competitors. 

     Personally, I think it's admirable that lawyers are seeking help when they need it. After all,  that's what employee assistance programs are for. So how do you keep from being depressed when your industry is in turmoil? Do you think too many people are afraid to use employer-sponsored assistance programs? Do people fear their current or former employer somehow will find out?

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