Wellness: Practicing From the Shadows: Suicide Awareness and Prevention (On Demand Seminar)

MCLE Credits: 1.0
Ethics Credits Included: 0.0

MCLE Credit: 1.0 (Ethics: 0.0)
Live-Interactive Credit: 0.0
Price: $79 (Includes a downloadable audio version.)
Viewable Through: 12/31/2022


A pre-recorded streaming video replay of the August 2019 webcast, Wellness: Practicing from the Shadows: Suicide Awareness and Prevention.

In 2020, Virginia lawyers, judges, and law students may take up to two pre-defined wellness courses through the Virginia Law Foundation/Virginia CLE free of charge. These courses have been developed in response to the efforts of the Supreme Court of Virginia and the Virginia Lawyers’ Wellness Initiative. Learn more.

Topics covered include:

  • Learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression
  • Learn the steps lawyers should take when faced with depression or suicidal issues in themselves or with colleagues
  • Develop an understanding of the pervasiveness of this problem in the legal profession
  • Hear from lawyers who suffered from depression and overcame it.

An American Bar Association Commission on Lawyers Assistance Programs and the Hazelton-Betty Ford Foundation found the following statistics” 2016 Study of 13000 practicing lawyers showed that 21-36% were problem drinkers; 28% struggling w/ depression; 19% suffering from anxiety; 23% dealing with stress; 17% of law students experiencing depression; 6% had suicidal thoughts; 43% reported binge drinking; 25% considered at risk for alcoholism for which further screening was recommended.

An earlier study revealed that 28% of attorneys suffered from depression; 11.5% reported suicidal ideation during their career; 2.9% reported engaging in self-injurious acts, and .07 % had attempted suicide on at least one occasion. More recent studies show that attorneys are in the top two or three professions to commit suicide—Virginia is not immune to this statistic.

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Increase your understanding and compassion for members of the profession who suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts. Develop an understanding of the ethical responsibilities an attorney has when faced with depression in him/herself or other members of the legal community. Learn how a mental health disability is handled by the Virginia State Bar. This program will cover the following outline:

   A. Speaker Biographies
   B. Context – Why are we here talking about this?
   C. Overview of Balance of Presentation
      1. Context/statistics - Why are we talking about this?
      2. Why are the statistics like this?
      3. Responding to an attorney suicide
      4. Preventing attorney suicide
   A. National (non-lawyer-specific statistics and trends)
   B. Legal profession statistics
   C. “Wellness Movement”
   A. Reliability of data
   B. Rationale re rates
   C. Rationale re trend
   A. As a firm, in relation to a specific suicide
   B. What happens in a solo practitioner context?
   C. As a profession, in relation to prevalence of attorney suicides
   A. Raising awareness of “problem”
   B. Education re Imminent Potential Suicide
   C. Encouraging / Destigmatizing Help-Seeking (and “Wellness”) Behavior



Leonard C. Heath
, Heath, Overbey, Verser & Old PLC / Newport News

Len Heath is Len is a partner in the firm of Heath, Overbey, Verser & Old, P.L.C., located in Newport News, Virginia. He currently serves as the Immediate Past President of the Virginia State Bar. He has spoken and written extensively about Lawyer Well-Being and is the author of Why Lawyer Well-Being is Important to Society, 31 Regent U.L. Rev. 1 also under Len’s Leadership, A Special Committee of the Bar published the Report Occupational Risks of the Practice of Law. The report identifies specific aspects or characteristics of the practice of law that might serve as a risk to a lawyer’s well-being. The report also includes an extensive bibliography with further sourcing. The report can be found on the VSB website using the search term “wellness”. 

Michael E. Sievers
, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP / Richmond

Michael Sievers focuses his practice on commercial real estate and energy transactions, as well as unmanned aircraft systems (aka “drones”). He has extensive experience with tax credit-generating real estate investments, as well as traditional commercial real estate leasing, acquisition, disposition, and financing. Michael is also co-chair of the firm’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems practice. His unmanned aircraft systems practice involves assisting clients with all aspects of integrating these emerging technologies into their business practices. He has been tapped by several media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and he has given educational presentations on the topic. He has provided subject matter expertise to the Virginia Israel Advisory Board, an agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  

Michael also serves his firm, colleagues, coworkers, and their family members in an unnamed role by acting as a resource to individuals and/or firm management in seeking to address substance abuse and mental health issues in a holistic and sensitive manner. He is a volunteer with Virginia Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program and has served multiple terms on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond.

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