Can working in a BigLaw lead me to depression?

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Page last updated: 28/10/2022

Can working in a BigLaw lead me to depression?

This article will center around what it can feel like to work at a BigLaw. It will explain why it can make you feel depressed, what signs you may be getting depressed, and what are ways to cope.

Can working in a BigLaw lead me to depression? 

Yes, working in a BigLaw is an extremely stressful situation, which can, at times, lead people to become depressed. There seems to be a pattern in BiLaws that can cause people to develop mental illness.

A study done in 2018 by ALM Survey, wanted to understand how BigLaw professionals were feeling. It showed that 31% of the participants felt depressed, and 64% of them felt like they had anxiety problems. 

The most staggering answer of it all came when they were asked if they thought their work harmed their mental health, to which 74% said yes; and 17,9% said they have considered suicide.

It seems there is a pattern on how BigLaw makes people depressed. As you start working with these companies you feel you have reached the promised land of your career, you have reached a place in which you feel successful and safe. And because of that, you will try to prove your worth the best way you can.

This often leads to extremely long hours, and an abandonment of all other aspects of your life. Your superiors may start to give you cases that are more and more complex, and you will gladly take this challenge as it makes you feel like you are a team player, and that they are showing they trust your potential and capability.

But at some point, it can all start to feel like it is too much. The long hours, the difficulty in taking some time off, your constant overthinking and desire to deliver everything perfectly, the deadlines, and mate night calls. This will all lead you to feel completely drained.

You can begin to feel yourself changing, your mood is not the same, and you may become more irritable, and sad. You start to lose interest in things, and even your work, which you used to love, seems too uninteresting to you. All of these are signs that depression got its claws on you.

But what can you do when you start to feel something is wrong? 

There is still a lot of stigma around mental health. You may fear that you will be labeled as an unfit employee, that your bosses will no longer put you to work in the best cases, and that will set your career back for years.

It is a confusing time, you are in a huge amount of pain and sometimes may try to deal with it on your own. Telling your boss something is going on is a possibility, but because of the fear of being set aside, it can be a dangerous one.

You also won’t recognize yourself anymore, and learning how to deal with this new reality can be extremely hard. So let’s discuss what you can do to cope with being depressed as you work in a BigLaw.

Can working in a BigLaw lead me to depression?

How can I cope with depression when working in a BigLaw? 

If you feel like being a professional in one of the BigLaw is making you depressed, here are some things you can do.

Share your feelings 

One of the things that make depression so difficult is the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and loneliness. Having people you can share your feelings with can make those a little easier to deal with. 

But sometimes it can be hard to know who to share. You can tell one of your bosses, may you begin to fear this will set you back professionally. Sharing with your colleagues can be a good call since they might relate to all the pressure you have been under, but you can become scared they will use this as something to get ahead of you.

A safe space in which you can share it with your family, or friends outside of your office. They probably won’t understand everything about the difficulties of your work environment, but they will be able to listen to you in a caring and supportive way. If that still doesn’t feel like the best fit, look for professional help.

Look for treatment 

If you are depressed, you must look for professional help. As said before, there is evidence to support that many people working in BigLaw can become depressed, and will have suicidal thoughts. Because of that, the faster you start treatment, the better.

The most common way of treating depression is through a therapist, with whom you will talk about your feelings, and understand them better. And a psychiatrist, a mental health doctor who can prescribe you medication, when needed, to deal with the symptoms of depression.

Reflect on your life goals 

You might have wanted to be a part of a BigLaw your entire life, and once you got in one, you may have felt like everything was happening as you had imagined it. But with the toll this position is taking on your mental health, it can be important to think if it still makes sense to you.

And this is not saying you should quit because the job is not good for you, but rather trying to understand if it is still something that makes sense in your life. Don’t be ashamed of taking a step back, and looking for other opportunities in life. And if you find one that seems to make you happy, go for it.

Understand your condition

You must understand your condition. Having in mind that depression is a chronic condition that can happen multiple times in a person’s life, will allow you to permanently care for your mental health.

It will also be something to help you consider your options when thinking about your life goals. Depression will change you, the same way other conditions, such as diabetes, would change a person. And there is no shame in that.

Understanding how to live your life in a way that won’t trigger so much suffering is important. So try to find as much information as you can about depression, so you can think of the best strategies to deal with it.

How can BigLaw firms help their employees? 

Although the space for discussion around the mental health of professionals in BigLaw has grown, there is still a long way to go. Here are some ways BigLaws can help their employees’ mental health.

Have boundaries 

Create strategies that show your employees you respect their time away from work. You can send a different note on an email that needs to be dealt with right away, and one that can wait for the next working day, for example. This will show them what to prioritize, and give them time to enjoy their time off.

Make mental health services available

Giving your employees a chance to have mental health care will be a great way to prevent them from getting depressed. The firm can use apps such as Calm to encourage employees to care for their mental health.

Respect their vacation

Being called or receiving a bunch of emails when you are on vacation can make it harder for you to disconnect from work. Over time this will be extremely negative for their mental health. So when you have an employee that is on vacation you should respect that, and encourage them to get their mind away from work.

Make employees feel seen 

Feeling unseen or unappreciated is one of the main causes people can become depressed. They can feel like they are investing all their energy in a place that is giving them little back. Find ways to appreciate them.

Understand how your Associates work 

Understanding how each Associate works will allow you to care for their mental health. Know that if you have an overachiever Associate, they will always be available, but this can have a huge impact on their mental health over time. 

Soliciting them a little less may prevent them from becoming ill. Let them know it is not a lack of trust, but a way to care for them.

Make well-being a part of the feedback process

Putting on the feedback questions about how the employees feel the work has impacted their mental health, and how the firm could contribute to making it better will put this extremely important topic in discussion, and maybe take some of the shame away from it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Can working in a BigLaw lead me to depression? 

Does depression have a cure? 

No, depression doesn’t have a cure, it is a chronic condition that when treated will cause people to go into remission. At this moment, the person will begin to feel better, and the symptoms of depression won’t be as intense anymore.

Still, the person will need to keep caring for their mental health as a way to prevent future relapse.

Will every depressed person become sad?

No, differently than most people think, depression will not always manifest itself through sadness and excessive crying. To some people, depression can lead them to be more irritable, and even more aggressive. That is why it is so important to understand depression, so you can identify it even when it doesn’t happen as you expect.

What are the factors that cause depression?

Depression can happen due to a genetic predisposition, which means that a person will have a higher chance of getting depressed if they have a family history of depression. It can also be related to a chemical imbalance in the person’s brain.

Or it can also be a reaction to a traumatic situation. Meaning that when a person is going through a trauma, such as the end of a relationship, or the loss of a loved one, they can become depressed.

Will depression impact my work?

It is almost certain that depression will impact your work. Depression tends to affect every aspect of your life, making you feel without energy, as well as making it harder for you to focus. Which can have a huge impact on your career.

Will depression impact my relationship?

Yes, it is safe to say that depression impacts your relationships. It can make you want to isolate yourself and cause you to lose interest in things, which may mean that it will be harder for you to be with people.

Conclusion 

This article explained how working in a Biaw can harm your mental health, leading you to become depressed. It showed why this can happen, and what are ways you can cope.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write them in the section below.

References

https://www.abajournal.com/voice/article/a-big-law-partners-journey-through-clinical-depression
https://news.bloomberglaw.com/us-law-week/big-law-stress-is-forcing-associates-out-what-can-firms-do
https://news.bloomberglaw.com/us-law-week/big-law-stress-is-forcing-associates-out-what-can-firms-do