694 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 80 PART 5 SEPTEMBER 2022
age this work, including time to debrief, and schedule counselling. Encourage
civility and collegiality; discourage intimidation tactics, abuse and bullying
in litigation or the work environment. Incivility weighs heavily on us
all and does not work. It fosters a falsely competitive environment, protracts
litigation and leads to isolation, burnout and attrition.
Individual measures to prioritize mental health are important, but without
top-down change in the lawyers’ and law firms’ work, they are not enough.
I propose that change can be implemented from the top down because I
have confidence that our profession accepts its historical responsibility for
the education, well-being and advancement of its more junior members. But
if top-down change doesn’t work, more drastic measures will be required.
A few years ago, I gave a speech to young advocates in which I exhorted
them to “take control of your life, or others will take control of it for you.” I
was referring to bosses, family members, friends and others—many of them
well-meaning and with the best of intentions who were using the young
lawyer to achieve their ends, not focused on what was important to the life
and career of the young lawyer.
Some people might call this a “me first” attitude—putting yourself, your
family and friends who care about you—first in your life. Looking after
yourself and those whom you love.
Today, my message would be modified by adding: “Take control of and be
responsible for your mental health too. And if those responsible for your
work environment do not demonstrate that they care about you, your need
to find purpose and value in your work, your growth and education as a barrister,
your personal needs and the demands placed on your mental health,
then get the hell out of there.”
And my message to more senior members of the profession, and to those
responsible for the management of law firms, is this: you must take mental
health seriously—your lawyers and staff do, your clients do and you need
to as well. If you lead by example, you will create an environment that is
more collegial, more satisfying and ultimately more productive.
1. Canadian Mental Health Association, “Fast Facts
about Mental Health and Mental Illness” (19 July
2021), online: <www.cmha.ca/brochure/fast-factsabout
3. “Understanding Mental Health in the Legal Profession”,
LAWPRO Magazine 19:1 (1 January 2020) 5
at 6, online: <www.practicepro.ca/wp-content/up
pdf>. See also Centre for Addiction and Mental
Health, “Mental Illness and Addiction: Facts and
Statistics”, online: <www.camh.ca/en/driving-change
4. LAWPRO Magazine, supra note 3. See Patrick R
Krill, Ryan Johnson & Linda Albert, “The Prevalence
of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns
Among American Attorneys” (2016) 10:1 Journal of
Addiction Medicine 46.