“Shooting at the walls of heartache, bang, bang, I am the warrior”
I got the news that a friend killed himself. One of several lately. All of them middle age men. All of them trial lawyers.
Shannon Ragland, who publishes the must read Trial Court Review, noted the rash of suicides and one of his readers posted an article from the American Bar Association Journal noting that, “lawyers personalities contribute to suicide risks.”
The suicide risk is especially high for trial lawyers. All personality tests tell me why I work in a profession where I assist trial lawyers. I am a fighter for causes and nothing gets in my way. I am intensely competitive, have a quick temper, rack up insane office hours and go through periods of extreme burnout.
In other words, I have the identical personality of a middle-aged trial lawyer.
I see how they suffer from depression, mental illness and suicide. Many more cope with stress and depression with drinking, drugs or other addictions.
Trial lawyers have a unique caveat to their job. They are always making someone mad. Often times, like Atticus Finch’s character in Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, they can find that their entire community has turned against them. The stress of being a trial warrior can take a constant toll on a lawyer. A toll that sometimes ends in suicide.
I’m in the process of writing a long piece about Peter Perlman, one of the nation’s greatest trial attorneys. You will see the feature next month, but Perlman, a former President of the American Trial Lawyers Association, manages to stay on top of his game after 50 years of trial practice.
Pete has a solid foundation that many of my friends lack. He has been married to his college sweetheart for many years. A star athlete in college and high school, Perlman works out daily and looks 20 years younger than his age. Although no one prepares for a trial with more intensity than Pete does, he manages to find ways to keep his stress level down.
Perlman has his choice of clients. He recently told me that the most important thing to him is becoming friends with his clients and staying friends long after the case is over.
It’s easy to wind up with a client who is demanding and difficult and a constant stressor. It’s also easy to have cash flow and financial issues. Trial lawyers, like many professionals, have a hard time telling people they don’t have money. Since I help a lot of attorneys with their finances, I see the true picture. Many have high overhead and the stress of keeping a high profile with a low bankroll.
Trial lawyers have issues with depression, stress and mental illness far higher than the average population. It’s the nature of the career and the type of person who is attracted to it.
The other thing that trial lawyers don’t do well: ask for help.
Many states, such as my own state of Kentucky, have excellent programs set up to help people with substance abuse. Other attorneys have a 12-step program like alcoholics anonymous in turning their lives around.
The issues that cause a person to commit suicide are not always triggered by substance abuse. Sometimes people get in the grips of depression so badly that they are not able to get help.
If you know one of them, love on them or kick them in the ass until they get professional help. I went through a rough situation several years ago where my mom and sister died and my marriage ended all during a six-month period. I was way too “macho” to see a psychologist, but also at a point where I had stopped going to work or communicating.
My dear friend Al Smith, a 50-year veteran of AA and all other kinds of support programs, stayed on me until I saw a shrink. Slowly, I got my life back together. My psychologist and I eventually agreed that I had a handle on my issues.
I now push counseling and therapy on friends constantly. It will get easier financially in 2014 when Obamacare kicks into full gear, with an increased focus on mental health.
That is too late to help my deceased friends, but may help a batch of other friends dealing with the same issues. Also, we should all keep our eyes open for people who are struggling. Even if they are big time trial lawyers.
The mightiest of warriors can get wounded too. On the inside where no one can see.
Those wounds need to be addressed before it’s too late.
“Shooting at the walls of heartache, bang, bang, I am the warrior”
School-choice critics intimidate but won’t debate
Ken Wilber wrote: “Most of us are only willing to call 5% of our present information into question (at) any one point.” Then there is the closed-minded leadership of the Kentucky Education Association, Jefferson County Teachers Association, Kentucky School Boards Association and Kentucky Association of School Superintendents who, when it comes to school choice, won’t even question that much.
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I watched several videos from across the country showing feeding time at a zoo for starved, carniverous animals. At least, that’s what it looked like. What it was, in fact, was Black Friday, 2013.
Does Plan B exist for Kentucky’s declining economy?
Frustrated by intense opposition experienced by his ideological soul mate in the White House, Gov. Steve Beshear claims in a New York Times op-ed that Obamacare — the biggest expansion of government power and control in decades — is good for Kentuckians’ health and their pocketbooks.
Want the job done? Hire a woman
Robert Redford may have been on to something when he said during the recent government shutdown that women and young people are the answer to solving gridlock in Washington.
Out of the darkness and into the light
Back in mid-August, I went camping with my wife, Carmen, my mother-in-law, Linda, and our friend Donnie.
Thanksgiving - a daily duty
Over the years I have many times felt a grave disappointment, even a dismay, when attending a Thanksgiving meal in one place or another. It happened when hearing the blessing before the meal – the brief, inarticulate prayer that resounded with insincerity and lack of conviction.
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During the month of November, I have been taking time with each newspaper column to write about my personal “Thanks-Giving.” It is a time of reflection to be thankful for those that have made a difference in my life.
Cheating ultimately cheats the cheater
When the teachers tell you that cheating ultimately cheats the cheater (a high school teacher’s quote, there) they certainly weren’t just whistling Dixie.
Ignoring God — and your cat — gets you in a mess
We had been asleep that night for about two hours when this odd noise came from the direction of our laundry room. I sat up quickly from my pillow, and immediately turned to Carmen asking her if she heard it.
Eliminating every earthly flaw
Not only tracking down every squeak and rattle, but every car must feel right — when driving, or seeking the right temperature, or touching the knob for adjusting the stereo, or closing the door or clicking the seatbelt.
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