Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Awaken Something!

Over the weekend, I was at a memorial service for the amazing Mary Pam Kilgore, who died after a quiet but valiant battle with cancer. Before the folk singers let me hop into their rendition of Angel Band, I sat down with one of my Six Friends, Joanne Quinn Smith. Joanne is also the founder of Positively Pittsburgh Live Magazine.

"So," Joanne said, "when are you going to wake up LegalShoe? Mary Pam always wrote Planners Pointers for me and now I need content."

Inside Menopausal Me was saying: "Not yet. I'm still trying to recover from whatever depression thing laid me out last summer. I'm moving. I have to pack. No one reads my stuff anyway."

The Outside Me, the Third Child Me, said out loud: "This week. I'll do it this week. Yay."

I've been retooling LegalShoe in my head for the last year. I've been retooling me for the last 3 months. It's time to wake up LegalShoe, whether anyone reads it or not.

With the goal of helping Joanne with her content problem, LegalShoe isn't just about legal issues. It's about the problems that face lawyers and other professionals who are uniquely entrepreneurial. Problems like planning a career, building clientele, and liking a chosen path. Back breakers like depression, debt, and uncertainty.

Nobody really seems to be talking about those. It gets lonely when you're the only person who feels this way. So here are some scary statistics that make me feel less isolated (courtesy the Dave Nee Foundation).

  • Depression among law students is 8-9% prior to matriculation, 27% after one semester, 34% after 2 semesters, and 40% after 3 years.
  • Stress among law students is 96%, compared to 70% in med students and 43% in graduate students.
  • Entering law school, law students have a psychological profile similar to that of the general public. After law school, 20-40% have a psychological dysfunction.
  • Psychological distress, dissatisfaction and substance abuse that begin in law school follow many graduates into practice.
  • Only half of lawyers are very satisfied or satisfied with their work.
  • Chronic stress can trigger the onset of clinical depression.
  • Lawyers are the most frequently depressed occupational group in the US.
  • Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers.
  • Depression and anxiety is cited by 26% of all lawyers who seek counseling.
  • 15% of people with clinical depression commit suicide.
  • Lawyers rank 5th in incidence of suicide by occupation.
  • 19% of lawyers suffer from statistically significant elevated levels of depression, according to a survey conducted on lawyers in Washington.
  • Over 25% of North Carolina lawyers experience physical symptoms of extreme anxiety at least three times per month during the year.
  • 37% of North Carolina lawyers suffer from depression.
  • 11% of North Carolina lawyers suffer from suicide ideation.

Entrepreneurs aren't immune either. Aaron Schwartz suffered suicidal depression and ultimately hanged himself in the face of a federal investigation over downloading documents from the MIT JSTOR library. Ecomom's Jody Sherman, Diaspora's Ilya Zhitomirskiy  and more anonymous entrepreneurs have lost their fight with depression. Sadly, LegalShoe's research department couldn't find any hard statistics for entrepreneurs. Perhaps it's because "entrepreneur" isn't exactly a profession. Oh, and most entrepreneurs don't like to talk about it.

One entrepreneur is doing a noble work to get other entrepreneurs to talk about their depression. Check out Jonathan Malkin's interviews and articles here. They are fascinating, and super helpful.

Last summer, Ben Horowitz called entrepreneurship "The Struggle." You can read that post here. It's a familiar manifesto.

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