Third Circuit Judge Cheryl Krause and her former law clerk Jane Chong are the 2019 winners of the American Inns of Court’s Warren E. Burger Prize for their essay “Lawyer Wellbeing as a Crisis of the Profession.” The prize announcement is here. Their prize will be presented October 26 at an event at the Supreme Court hosted by Justice Neil Gorsuch.
From the announcement:
The authors describe high rates of lawyer depression, anxiety, accidental overdose, and suicide and urge comprehensive examination of the conditions that contribute to lawyer distress. “[T]he suffering lawyer can be understood as a canary in the coalmine of the legal profession,” the authors write.
Going beyond poor mental health’s effect on individual lawyers and their ability to represent clients effectively, the essay instead focuses on the way in which modern legal practices impair lawyer wellbeing and degrade the profession’s ideals. These practices include long hours, diminished training opportunities for young lawyers, the increasing commercialization of practice, and the deterioration of civility and decorum. Striking at the core of professional identity, these practices have led to decreased autonomy, diminished connectedness to others, and debilitating self-doubt.
Calling for the profession to put its ideals into practice, the essay concludes with suggestions for reform. Recommendations include expanding opportunities to develop competence, rewarding public service as well as billable hours, and raising standards of conduct outside as well as inside the courtroom.
The Burger Prize is a writing competition to promote professionalism, ethics, civility, and excellence. The winning essay by Judge Krause and Chong will be published in an upcoming issue of the South Carolina Law Review.