Former Sidley partner talks publicly about depression and getting rid of Biglaw


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Biglaw’s mental health problem has once again become a hot topic of conversation. Perhaps not surprisingly, we know that drug abuse and other mental health issues have a greater impact on the legal profession than most people. A study by ALM revealed some disturbing statistics:

74% said that the legal profession had a negative impact on their mental health over time;
56% of the respondents said that mental health problems and drug abuse in the legal industry are more serious than in other industries;
41% of respondents said that mental health problems and drug abuse are at a crisis level in the legal profession;
17.9% of respondents said that they had considered suicide in their legal career;
31.2% of respondents expressed frustration.
64% of respondents said they have anxiety;
10.1% of the interviewees said they have alcohol problems; and
2.8% of respondents said they have drug problems.

However, to truly solve this problem, professionals need to treat this problem as an impersonal figure. They need true stories. This is one of the reasons why Gabe MacConaill, partner of Sidley Austin, committed suicide.His body was found Self-explosive gunshot wound In the company’s parking lot, but it wasn’t until his death that his story spread. His widow Joanna Litt (Joanna Litt) Wrote a provocative review The title is “The Big Law Killed My Husband”, which details the stress that MacConaill handles and “maladaptive perfectionism”, which has caused tension among lawyers everywhere.

Now, another former Sidley partner is talking publicly about his struggle with mental illness.Kent Halkert Wrote an article The Tennessee Bar Association urges the industry to take mental health seriously, especially after COVID-19:

The law is a means of living under internal pressure. The profession has now become an enterprise. Poor mental health is a medical condition. The combination of humiliation, pressure, status and stigma make the law permanent. Lawyers are essentially excellent problem solvers in education and training. They have not solved the mental health problems in their team. why?

The good news: lawyers with mental health challenges can thrive in this industry.

The legal profession needs to refocus its attention and resources on this crisis. Colleagues suffer every day. The COVID-19 virus pandemic has disrupted legal practice and increased stress levels. It’s now.

He draws some direct similarities between the tragic story of MacConaill and his experience at the same company:

Similarly, in 1995, I was a young litigation partner of Sidley Austin. Under the responsibilities of the company’s management, I was under tremendous pressure to control and resolve “hell cases.” I completed the task easily. I worked day and night, clinging to the grindstone, until I successfully resolved the immediate threat. However, internally, I felt something “wrong”. A few months later, I visited a psychiatrist for the first time due to persistent mental distress and was diagnosed with “clinical depression”.

Diagnosis is a relief and a nightmare. There are medical reasons for my pain, but I am absolutely sure that my career in Sidley Austin and The Grand Law is over.

Halkett said that he has never discussed his mental health struggles with anyone in the company, and the combined effects of workload and emotional disorders are unimaginable. As a result, he said that his time at the company was shortened “prematurely”:

I am most worried that if the company’s management knows my condition, I will be labeled as “damaged goods”. My biggest worry was confirmed. I took six weeks of paid leave from the company. When I resumed practice, despite the painful experience, constant recovery and better intuition, I returned to the sharpening stone. I am engaged in high-quality legal work and have always achieved good results for the company and its clients. My colleagues did not understand my emotional disorder, nor did they find any “wrong” in my legal ability. Nevertheless, my career with Sidley Austin has reached a plateau that I cannot surpass. The company no longer assigns selected cases and tasks to me. It cut my administrative contributions. My pay has stagnated. Obviously, I was too early in the “big law” field. I resigned and joined a small law firm that provided opportunities for continuing to engage in high-quality legal work and a bright future for the legal profession.

Many years later, bigla Halkett once again entered the world of large law firms. But his experience shows how common the problem is and is not limited to specific companies:

A few years later, I was once again a litigation partner of an old-school, respected California company with more than 100 lawyers and multiple offices. I thought my struggle with depression was always behind me. However, after successfully resuming my professional career and practicing without any further mental health events for more than 15 years, my depression got worse. Once again, I quickly became a “damaged commodity” for the new company. I left and tried to reinvent myself in another company, but I was fighting a losing battle. Less than six months later, I committed suicide.

Halkit said that the combination of pressure, status (the driving force for it), and stigma created a tumbling cauldron that exacerbated Biglaw’s mental health problems. He urged the industry to “create a culture where all lawyers’safely’ contact their family, friends or professional colleagues, or contact their law firm or local bar association.” That is all of us. Can fall behind.


head shotKathryn Rubino is the senior editor of “Above the Law” and serves as Jabot podcast. AtL recommender is the best, so please contact her.Send email anytime her Provide any tips, questions or comments, and follow her on Twitter (@凯瑟琳1).


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