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Judge Cheryl Ann Krause and Jane Chong are the 2019 winners of the Warren E. Burger Prize, a writing competition that promotes scholarship in the areas of professionalism, ethics, civility, and excellence. Krause and Chong, the competition’s first joint winners, will share the $5,000 prize for their essay “Lawyer Wellbeing as a Crisis of the Profession.” The prize will be presented at the organization’s Celebration of Excellence at the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, D.C., on October 26, 2019. Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch will host the celebration.
The winning essay, which will be published in the South Carolina Law Review, describes the legal profession’s current mental health crisis. 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.
Krause was unanimously confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 2014. She served previously as a partner at a multinational law firm in Philadelphia, specializing in white collar criminal defense and securities litigation; a lecturer at Stanford, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania law schools; and an assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York. Krause is a former law clerk for retired Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy of the Supreme Court of the United States and a member of the University of Pennsylvania Law School American Inn of Court.
A former law clerk for Krause, Chong is an associate at Williams & Connolly LLP in Washington, D.C. She earned her law degree from Yale Law School.
The American Inns of Court inspires the legal community to advance the rule of law by achieving the highest level of professionalism through example, education, and mentoring. Membership includes more than 30,000 judges, lawyers, law professors, and law students in more than 350 chapters nationwide. More information is available at home.innsofcourt.org.
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