The report, which details the struggles young lawyers have experienced paying off student loans and the mental health challenges that follow those struggles, also found a majority of survey respondents reported they “lacked a clear understanding of the legal job market and the cost/debt associated with law school attendance prior to enrolling.”
“The findings detail how most young lawyers struggle to pay off their student loans and some wind up heavier in debt after years of repayments because of accumulating interest," according to information from the ABA. “As a result, many suffer from mental health issues and postpone major life decisions because of their debt load.”
"Lawyers don’t build anything. The entire job is a mental exercise, which involves solving problems, translating ideas on paper, and communicating those ideas clearly. This is why protecting mental health is important: your ability to think and solve problems are your livelihood."
Breaking down the report a little further, respondents reported, unsurprisingly, those with higher loan balances are more inclined to show evidence of stress. According to the report, more than 70% of students who were in debt between $100,000 and $200,000 reported “high” or “overwhelming” stress. Further, 80% of those in debt more than $200,000 reported the same thing.
“A majority of those with more than $100,000 in debt agreed that their loan obligation has caused them to feel depressed or hopeless,” according to the ABA.
A 2020 report from the Young Lawyers Division found, and the most recent report reiterates, that Black borrowers had higher J.D. debt than any other ethnic or racial group.
The survey targeted more than 1,300 lawyers younger than 36 years old who gained their law degree, or were licensed to practice law, within the last 10 years. The questionnaire was circulated in May.
"Studies show that the mental health challenges for lawyers are even worse for members of the profession who identify as people of color. Explore the nexus between DEI & well-being during Annual Meeting: http://ow.ly/SnBS50G9bTB #MOBarMeet21 #MOLawyers"
The panel discussion, hosted on the afternoon of Tuesday, Sept. 21, and report rollout are part of the Student Debt Week of Action, which is held from Monday, Sept. 20 to Friday, Sept. 24. During that week, the ABA, along with other professional and trade organizations, are planning to lobby Congress and the White House to mitigate the impact of student loan debt.
In February, a resolution sponsored by Rep. Ayanna Pressley called on the president to take executive action to “broadly cancel Federal student loan debt” as a way to mitigate the economic impact of COVID 19, especially as it has impacted Black and brown borrowers.