The lawyer’s Paradox: The Link Between Personality and Psychopathology in Lawyers

Danielle Brezina, Legal Counsel, Law Branch, Alberta Energy Regulator

When it comes to mental health, lawyers appear to be their own worst enemies. Research over the past several decades has identified that certain traits and characteristics correlate with success in law school and in the practice of law (Daicoff, 2004). Research has also identified that there is an unusually high incidence of distress and psychopathology (mental illness) amongst law students and lawyers, compared to the general population, and even other professions (Deveson, 2012). These findings have catalyzed the legal community to take action to try to improve the situation and outcome for law students and lawyers. They have also motivated researchers to try to pinpoint the cause of this phenomenon, in the hope of finding solutions. Researchers have asked: what it is about being a law student or lawyer that makes them particularly vulnerable to psychopathology? The findings suggest that it is both in the nature of people who are drawn to and succeed in law school, and in the environment of law schools and the profession itself (Daicoff, 2004). While hypotheses abound, and further study is needed, the following observation emerges from the research: The very personality traits and characteristics that make lawyers good at their job make them susceptible to certain mental illnesses, reluctant to seek help and resistant to treatment.

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Management Energy July 2017 Vol.10, No. 40, Summer 2017

Danielle Brezina


Danielle Brezina studied science and philosophy at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and then obtained a law degree from the University of Ottawa. She articled and worked as an associate lawyer at Milner Fenerty (now Dentons) before joining the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (now the Alberta Energy Regulator) as legal counsel in 1997. She has had full spectrum experience as in house counsel for 20 years at the administrative tribunal that oversees the energy industry in Alberta. Her career has had a particular focus on regulatory compliance and legislative development and drafting. She studies psychology in her spare time.

Management Energy July 2017 Vol.10, No. 40, Summer 2017