Two years ago, lawyer and mental health consultant Patrick Krill set out to test a hypothesis: Is the commodification of the legal field, such that it looks more like big business than a profession, tied to deteriorating mental and physical health among attorneys?

The answer appears to be yes, according to a study Krill published with the University of Minnesota’s psychiatry department this month in Behavioral Sciences. Having surveyed nearly 2,000 attorneys in California and Washington, D.C., in summer 2020 about their well-being and the value they felt they represented to their employers, Krill’s team discovered that lawyers who felt valued for their individual skills were happier, less stressed, less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and less likely to quit their firms or the profession altogether than those who felt like billing units or got no meaningful feedback.