By Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C

Being alone and being lonely are two very different things. One can be very happy and content being alone and spending time with oneself. Being alone can be very relaxing and a time to recharge and decompress. On the other hand, being lonely is feeling very unsettled and having a void and incompleteness. Being lonely can happen when you are by yourself or in a room full of people.

Loneliness is a bigger issue in the legal profession than in other professions. According to The Washington Post, lawyers outranked other professionals on a “loneliness scale” in a survey of more than 1,600 workers. The Harvard Business Review also found that “Holders of professional degrees in law and medicine were the loneliest—25 percent lonelier than people with bachelor’s degrees, and 20 percent lonelier than those with PhDs.”

Solo practitioners may be at a greater risk of loneliness due to the long work hours and social isolation. The Lawyer Assistance Program at the MSBA has assembled the following tips to help solo practitioners combat loneliness:

  1. Rent office space in a larger firm, a suite with multiple solo attorneys, or in a new co-working space. Our clients that rent space in a suite with multiple solo attorneys find that they are more productive when they have other people around to talk and socialize with. They have also noted it helps them feel a sense of camaraderie and support.
  2. Join the MSBA Solo & Small Firm Section and/or other MSBA Sections and the Sections’ Email Discussion List. The ability to chat with other solo and small firm practitioners, even virtually, can reduce the feeling of loneliness.
  3. Build social time into your schedule, by adding social outings with family or friends, or attending networking events with colleagues to your calendar. We are generally more accountable if something is scheduled on our calendars.
  4. Tackle procrastination. Many lawyers we see tell us about their struggle with procrastination, which can lead to longer work hours and having to work on nights and weekends. Find an organizational method that works for you. Structuring your day helps you to be more productive, and allows you more free time.
  5. Set boundaries with your clients. Include a written protocol as part of your engagement agreement that indicates when your office open, and when you return calls and emails. If you answer your phone at 10pm they will keep calling at 10pm. Lawyers with these written protocols found them to be very helpful in setting expectations with their clients. Setting expectations on your availability will allow you to enjoy time with family and friends in the evenings and on weekends.
  6. Provide your client with regularly scheduled updates on their matter, which will help reduce client calls asking for updates. Regularly scheduled updates will help to lower your client’s anxiety, and will reduce the number of client calls seeking updates on their matters.
  7. Find an activity or volunteer with an organization. Activities and volunteer opportunities allow us to socialize with others that have similar interests.
  8. Diversify your social group. Have friends that are not lawyers. When lawyers get together, just like any other professional group, they tend to talk “shop”. By diversifying your social group, you can leave the shop talk behind.
  9. Call the Lawyer Assistance Program. Everyone is different and has different challenges. We can help you figure out what works best for you.

For assistance, please contact the Lawyer Assistance Program for free, confidential counseling. We have a network of counselors throughout Maryland. Jim Quinn, Lawyer Assistance Director, (443) 703-3041,; Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C, Associate Director, (443) 703-3042, 24/7 Toll Free 1(888) 388-5459.

Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C has over 20 years experience in her field, and extensive experience working with lawyers and judges in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and trauma.