Cuban American Bar Assoc. Zeroes In On Attys’ Mental Health

By Carolina Bolado

Law360, Miami (August 25, 2017, 9:47 PM EDT) — After the suicide in June of a prominent Miami attorney rocked the local legal community, the Cuban American Bar Association is making mental health a focus, starting with an annual luncheon Friday that featured attorney Brian Cuban — brother of businessman Mark Cuban — to talk about his struggle with addiction and depression.

Cuban, who joked that he is “a Cuban, but not Cuban,” told the crowd of attorneys and judges how he would go into court high on cocaine and attend mediation sessions hung over from the previous night’s drinking. His struggle with addiction cost him his law practice, his clients and relationships with family members.

It came to a head in 2005, when his two brothers found him with a gun about to take his own life. At treatment centers, he noticed that a large number of people there seeking help were attorneys.

Now that he speaks publicly about his battles with depression, eating disorders and drugs, he says he gets emails every week from attorneys struggling with mental illness.

“I think lawyers are very reluctant to deal with how they got there,” Cuban said. “We bring our baggage to the courtroom, to the office, to the hearing.”

Dr. Samantha Behbahani, a licensed clinical psychologist in Miami, told the crowd that the perfectionist personalities prevalent in the legal profession increase the odds of suicide among those with depression. She noted that while the suicide rate in the general population in the U.S. is about 11 per 100,000 people, it’s six times higher for those in the legal profession.

CABA President Javier Lopez, a partner at KozyakTropin& Throckmorton LLP, said he had initially planned a standard panel of judges and attorneys to lead a discussion on a legal issue at the annual luncheon, but after the suicide in June of Colson Hicks Eidson partner Ervin Gonzalez, he began to think of how to shift the focus to mental health.

Lopez said that about a month after Gonzalez’s death, a manila folder with Cuban’s book about his battle with addiction, “The Addicted Lawyer,” landed on his desk. Lopez called and made a pitch to Cuban, saying the volunteer bar association could not afford to pay a speaking fee, but that the community was hurting and needed to hear his story.

He said he plans to continue to address the issue throughout his one-year term as president of the association, with more events and seminars, as well as using the CABA pro bono program to help attorneys who reach out for assistance.

“In the legal profession, we are scared of showing weakness,” Lopez told the attendees. “Make your practice a priority, but never make it the priority.”

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