As a South Florida legal recruiter for over 30 years, I’m used to uncomfortable discussions related to hiring and retaining talent. It takes thick skin to be a recruiter and even thicker skin to advocate for increased mental health awareness in the legal community.
Objections relating to a lawyer’s career are trivial compared to the objections I hear when I discuss mental health. People have the uncanny ability to simultaneously amaze and offend—usually from a place of kindly ignorance. Here’s an extreme example: A managing partner told me that “if we know someone has a problem, we have to deal with it, but if we don’t know, we aren’t liable.” Setting aside their willful blindness, the essence of the argument was that if a firm had a lawyer abusing alcohol, overbilling files, missing deadlines and creating significant malpractice risk, but it was under the radar, all was well. Such denial and ignorance are powerful and, at the same time, potentially catastrophic.