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Law Firms Lose 10% of Staffing Costs Due to Employee Mental Health, Study Finds


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Law firms may lose an average of 10%—or $21,982,675—of their annual staffing costs due to poor employee mental health, according to a survey of six BigLaw firms by Unmind, a workplace mental health solutions provider.

This equates to almost $22 million lost in staffing costs annually or $14,512 per employee, based on estimated loss of wages from firms who participated in the survey.

These losses spurred by poor mental health can include deteriorated work quality, absenteeism, and attrition.

The data is based on a survey of 3,814 attorneys and professionals from U.S. law firms. The questions covered things like employee stress, senior leadership support, psychological safety, and how fulfilled employees are in their work.

The cost of poor lawyer well-being

The survey found that “presenteeism,” or the proportion of time at work that is negatively affected by poor well-being, accounts for up to 70% of lost costs.

The researchers measured presenteeism by asking respondents, “To what extent has poor mental health affected your performance on days you’ve been at work?” Employees who self-reported high levels of stress were five times more likely to exhibit presenteeism than others.

In addition, about half of employees said they had taken at least one day off due to mental health in the past three months. And those who were not challenged and fulfilled by work were three times more likely to report attrition, or an intention to leave their current role in the next six months due to poor mental health.

A lack of leadership from the top

Nearly one in five respondents said they do not trust law firm leadership to “make decisions that are in the best interests of employee mental health and wellbeing.”

Moreover, half of respondents who did not feel supported by senior leadership also said work negatively impacts their mental health, and they were more likely to be absent due to mental health.

While the survey did not collect demographic data from survey respondents, the survey did find that associates reported lower levels of support from the firm and senior leadership and higher stress levels compared to the general population.

Recommendations for law firms

In the report, Unmind recommends that law firms manage workplace demands by fostering psychological safety—or how safe employees feel to address points of disagreement and talk about mistakes—and work-life balance; tracking well-being data and identifying needs for resources and support according to the results; and being mindful of how different groups may be at higher risk for poor mental health.

When it comes to senior leadership, Unmind recommends that organizations better equip senior leaders to model well-being in their organizations, help them understand the importance of employee well-being in the performance and economic health of an organization, and support and celebrate senior leader participation in well-being initiatives.

The report also acknowledged that gender, age, and marginalized social identities can impact well-being in the workplace. A recent NALP survey on lawyer job satisfaction found that women report more mental health and well-being challenges at work, and that people of color lawyers report switching jobs due to low satisfaction at higher rates than white lawyers.

Specifically for these groups, the report recommends that law firms tailor their approach to better understand and address their needs and encourage discussions in facilitated workshops and focus groups.


If you are in Illinois and need support, Illinois LAP provides lawyers, judges, law students, and their families concerned about alcohol abuse, drug dependency, or stress-related issues (like anxiety, burnout, depression, and many others) with education, therapy, intervention, and support.

All of Illinois LAP’s lawyer well-being services are confidential. To learn more, click here or call 800-LAP-1233. Any Illinois LAP call, email, or “Get Help” request will be responded to within 24 to 48 hours.

If you or someone you know outside of Illinois needs assistance, please reach out to your local LAP.

If you are experiencing a life-threatening mental health or health emergency, please contact 911 or go to your nearest emergency room department for help and assistance.

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