Advocacy in court and confidential meetings with clients are commonplace for criminal defense attorneys — except in the time of COVID. The pandemic has halted non-emergency court proceedings and caused all West Virginians to shelter in place. The unintended consequence of these life and work changes include increased stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms. Recognizing the shift most attorneys have had to make in their work, the American Bar Association (ABA) has compiled a list of mental health resources to help and support lawyers during COVID.
In the last several years the ABA has undertaken an intentional focus on lawyer well-being, spurred on by the 2016 landmark study from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs. This study found that “21 percent of licensed, employed attorneys qualify as problem drinkers, 28 percent struggle with some level of depression and 19 percent demonstrate symptoms of anxiety.” These findings were measured during typical times of work and executing professional duties. The exceptional situation of COVID will undoubtedly expand those numbers.
The ABA’s COVID-19 Mental Health Resources list of resources address panic, stress, depression, anxiety, substance use and recovery, as well as law office practice management and client service. The list includes information in a variety of formats, including videos, confidential support group links, hotline numbers, articles, and guided mindfulness exercises. The goal is to support attorneys whose well-being is imperative as they importantly provide client support and advocacy.
The shelter in place also presents an opportunity to catch up on CLE hours and learn new skills. The following list outlines resources where you can find CLEs and other educational opportunities for lawyers and non-lawyers.
- CLE links
- https://www.americanbar.org/cle-marketplace/cle-library/ (LOTS of CLEs are available for free with your ABA membership)
- National Association for Public Defense
- National Legal Aid & Defender Association
- National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
- Other educational resources