Wednesday, 22 June 2011

lawyers and mental illness

i really wanted to share this piece about scrutiny of mental illness in the australian legal profession. i like it so much that i want to just reproduce the whole thing here, but that would be rude. so here's an excerpt but please do read the whole thing over there:

Two NSW magistrates have had to front up before the Parliament and explain to a bunch of politicians why their mental illness should not render them unfit to perform their duties. One wonders how many of the honourable members listening have (or should have) appointments with psychiatrists pencilled in their diaries.


With respect, those who judge our judges and lawyers should understand that law is one of those professions very conducive to depression in its practitioners. Perhaps a good way to describe a lawyer’s job is to always assume the worst scenarios are going to happen and then protect his or her client from each of them. The best lawyers are almost always the ultimate pessimists. Too much positive thinking is dangerous in the legal game.

Life is especially tough for many small operators whose sources of work are drying out or legislated out of existence. These are often the lawyers prepared to do low-paying legal aid work for average punters. These are the lawyers who would struggle to pay their own hourly rate let alone the fees of the average private psychiatrist.

As magistrate Maloney told the NSW Parliament: “Interestingly, researchers have found that 40% of law students, 20% of barristers and 33% of solicitors have a mental illness. It is from this demographic that judicial officers are drawn. In the past 12 months three barristers have sadly taken their own lives. In recent years, two judges.”

it appals me that lawyers & judges would have to prove a lack of depression or other mental illness. it's hugely discriminatory as well as self-defeating.

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