Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Posted by Alan Childress
Attorney depression and related mental health issues are a recurring topic on this blog and others (e.g., Mike's June 20 post on a Pennsylvania bar matter, and his this morning on a Missouri case involving bipolar disorder). One website is devoted to the specific topic: it is called Lawyerswithdepression.com, and is edited by Dan Lukasik. Depression is the subject of a recent California Bar Journal article, as we noted here. David Giacalone at f/k/a has also written on the subject in helpful detail and poetically, and see also Legal Underground's important 2005 post here (guest penned by Ray Ward). Both Ray and David link plenty of books and articles, and the comments and blog trackbacks following Ray's post are extensive.
The subject intersects frequently with attorney images in popular culture. Jeff wrote on the subject via posts about Michael Clayton and law firm associates. Bill Henderson, along with David Zaring, wrote a review essay on two lawyer novels depicting associates and their supposed unhappiness, but Bill also points to empirical studies worth considering before jumping to the conclusion that lawyering equals unhappiness.
Now Lance McMillian (Atlanta's John Marshall L.S.) has published in SSRN Law & Soc'y: The Legal Profession his new paper, "Tortured Souls: Unhappy Lawyers Viewed Through the Medium of Film." He focuses on such 'tortured' characters as Ned Racine, Frank Galvin, Michael Clayton, and even Atticus Finch. The abstract is below the fold.
Lance's abstract is:
Lawyers are unhappy. So bad is the situation that scholars have even asked, "Can one be a lawyer and a happy human being at the same time?" Culturally, the existence of unhappy lawyers is not an unknown phenomenon. Case in point: the portrayal of tortured attorneys through the medium of film. This Article focuses on nine such lawyers: Ned Racine, Michael Clayton, Frank Galvin, Reggie Love, Paul Biegler, Sam Bowden, Arthur Kirkland, Jan Schlichtmann, and Atticus Finch. Similarities between lawyers in reel life and real life quickly emerge.
The legal profession should pay attention to these common struggles. Attorneys in film have much to teach. Their most lasting lessons point the way for the modern lawyer to reclaim a satisfying and fulfilling legal career. Through the movies, lawyers old and new can freshly discover the secrets for lasting success: doing what one loves, devoting oneself to a noble end, and refusing to compromise ethically. That great cinema contains enduring truths and insights should not be surprising. The best films help us to learn something more about ourselves. Learning without action, however, soon melts away. When trapped in unhappiness, it is the individual who must act and make choices consistent with that person's core values. Movies can rekindle our ideals. But only we can make those ideals a reality.