The Chair’s Comments
Article Date: Monday, April 09, 2012
Written By: Bradford Williams
When I began practicing law over 10 years ago, I had no idea what I was getting into.
I have learned over time that the practice of law can be incredibly rewarding. From winning that first case to closing that first deal, the practice of law has produced in me amazing feelings of joy and satisfaction. And by joining the NCBA and becoming an active member of the YLD, I have had the opportunity to develop friendships with attorneys throughout North Carolina and to volunteer my time at public service events like 4ALL, where I have left the events feeling good about my profession because the bar joined together to assist those in need.
However, as we all know, the practice of law also can be demanding, both on ourselves and those who are close to us. For young lawyers, the stresses associated with a career in the law are great. I feel incredibly fortunate that when I graduated from law school, the legal job market was healthy. Still, I have felt the pressures that all young lawyers feel, from learning how to handle a caseload, to developing a client base, to meeting billable hour and revenue expectations, and to creating a meaningful work-life balance. These pressures remain the same for young lawyers who have recently graduated from law school.
What has changed since I became a licensed attorney in 1999 is the recent transformation in North Carolina’s legal market caused by the Great Recession and the opening of two new law schools in the state. These events have together created the situation where there are more law school graduates than there are available full-time, entry-level legal jobs. A tight job market for young lawyers creates a tremendous amount of stress for those young lawyers who are looking for employment.
Add to this stress the fact that more and more recent law school graduates, many of whom have been unable to land a legal job elsewhere, are opening up their own law firms. To navigate the first few years of practice while also being responsible for a small business is incredibly stressful. Then factor in the ever-rising cost of attending law school. It is not uncommon these days for students to graduate from law school with more than $100,000 in debt, which in many instances does not include debt from undergraduate studies. I cannot imagine the financial stress of having to repay large amounts of student debt while looking for a full-time legal job or opening up my own practice and wondering if paying clients will be walking through the door.
It is no wonder that young lawyers are stressed. Sometimes the stress becomes too much. When this happens, there is a resource for young lawyers: BarCARES.
I am sure many of you have seen the video for BarCARES that has been played at NCBA events or before CLEs at the Bar Center in Cary. In the video, you see more experienced attorneys talking about the stress, depression and/or substance abuse that led them to seek help from BarCARES. Rest assured, however, that BarCARES is not simply for experienced attorneys. Young lawyers in particular are susceptible to the effects of stress and depression arising from the economy, student debt levels, and the ordinary pressures of a demanding profession. BarCARES is there for young lawyers, ready and willing to serve those who need assistance.
For those who are unfamiliar with BarCARES, it is a “confidential, short-term counseling, coaching and crisis intervention” resource for members of judicial districts, local bars and law schools that have opted in to the BarCARES program. If you are a member of a judicial district, local bar, or law school that has joined the BarCARES program, you are entitled to three, free counseling sessions per bar year. BarCARES counselors are licensed counseling professionals. They are there to assist attorneys who need help with depression, anxiety, financial issues, professional stress, substance abuse, or family/relationship problems. If a problem or issue cannot be resolved during the three, free visits, BarCARES will help the attorney to access other resources, often under the attorney’s existing health insurance plan.
If you are a member of a judicial district or local bar that has yet to opt in to BarCARES, fear not. A pilot program has been established for NCBA members whose local bars are not BarCARES participants. Under the pilot program, these NCBA members can take advantage of two free counseling sessions so long as these members have not been served by BarCARES before. In short, as an NCBA member, BarCARES is a resource for you regardless of whether your judicial district or local bar has joined the BarCARES program.
To learn more about the BarCARES program or to find out which judicial districts or local bars have opted in to BarCARES, please visit the BarCARES webpage at
http://www.ncbar.org/barcares. If you need immediate assistance, please call the BarCARES coordinator at HRC Behavioral Health & Psychiatry at 1-800-640-0735. The call to the BarCARES coordinator is confidential.
If you are suffering, please do not suffer in silence. Take advantage of BarCARES so that you, too, can find the joy and satisfaction that comes from the practice of law and serving those in need. •
Views and opinions expressed in articles published herein are the authors' only and are not to be attributed to this newsletter, the section, or the NCBA unless expressly stated. Authors are responsible for the accuracy of all citations and quotations.