• By Neal Goldstein

Surgeon General’s Warning: Loneliness and Isolation- A Lawyer’s Perspective

On May 2, 2023, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy dropped a 75-page bombshell, “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation.” As someone who always roots for genuine and authentic human connections, I found myself buried nose-deep in the report, eager to unravel its implications for our profession.

Now, it’s no secret that our legal community has occasionally been dubbed as, let’s say, ‘not the most attentive’ when it comes to well-being studies. But let’s be real here; there are so many of us rolling up our sleeves and getting to work, fighting the good fight against client distrust and public dissatisfaction. Unfortunately, we’ve got our work cut out for us.

The advisory reveals a startling reality: a nationwide surge in social disconnection, isolation, and loneliness. Moreover, it paints a rather grim picture where trust is declining, and genuine relationships are fading. Finally, it equates the mortality impact of social disconnection to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Yes, you read that right!

The advisory doesn’t stop there. It goes on to expose how this absence of real social connections is causing a ripple effect of mental and physical decline, particularly in children, teens, seniors, ethnic and racial minorities, individuals with disabilities, and the LGBTQ+ communities. Our social fabric is disintegrating, and the pandemic has only fueled the fire.

Let’s talk numbers. Between 2003 and 2020, we see an alarming uptick in isolation, decreased family social engagements and friend hangouts, and an undeniable society-wide disconnection. In this new digital age, where nearly every teenager and adult under 65 is an active internet user, we can’t help but ask: Is the legal profession immune to this trust crisis?

As a lawyer, I am no stranger to the challenges that face our profession. We are in the trust-building business, after all. I believe in a client-centered approach where transparency and honesty are the cornerstones. But, building trust is more than just a strategy; it’s about forging strong relationships that can withstand the pressures of the courtroom and beyond.

When we know our clients on a personal level, we can better represent their interests. For example, I’ve had clients share their retirement dreams with me, allowing me to steer their cases toward a speedy resolution. 

This is where storytelling comes into play. It’s a powerful tool that can establish authenticity and foster trust. We reveal our human side by sharing our own experiences – perhaps a challenging case we won(or even lost)or  a personal anecdote that resonates. This vulnerability helps to build a bridge of trust with our clients, making us more relatable and stronger relationships.

The Surgeon General’s advisory is a wake-up call for us. We must step out from our office confines, immerse ourselves in our communities, and form real connections. Sure, online presence and marketing strategies are great, but there’s no substitute for personal interactions. Building relationships based on mutual respect and sincerity will bring client referrals and long-lasting partnerships.

In a society where trust levels are dwindling, we lawyers can become the harbingers of change. Storytelling can be a powerful tool to establish authenticity. Sharing personal experiences shows vulnerability and fosters trust. Let’s remember to go the extra mile, reaching out to our clients beyond the initial consultation, remembering their birthdays, and checking up on them regularly. My team and I make it a point to do this, and it’s made a world of difference.

In these isolation-ridden times, we, as lawyers, have a unique opportunity to weave connections among clients and within our workforce. By implementing the strategies recommended by the Surgeon General, we can combat the epidemic of loneliness and isolation.

Much like the steps we took during the pandemic – sanitizing, masking up, and practicing physical distancing – we must prepare for this ongoing epidemic. Prioritizing genuine relationships, transparency, and empathy can be our road map to making a tangible impact on our client’s lives and fostering a stronger, more connected legal profession.

To sum up, the Surgeon General’s warning is a call to arms for us legal professionals to take a more proactive role in promoting genuine relationships and enhancing the well-being of our colleagues and the public. It’s about fostering connections that go beyond the professional, extending into the personal realm. The goal? Transparency, trust, and empathy.

Fostering a client-centric approach, engaging with our communities, harnessing the power of storytelling, and proactively nurturing client relationships can create a more robust law practice better equipped to navigate the choppy waters of our times. By doing so, we can help build a more resilient, connected legal profession ready to face whatever the future holds.

Let’s all take a leaf out of the Surgeon General’s advisory and pledge to foster genuine connections in our work, communities, and personal lives. By doing so, we can improve our society and combat the devastating effects of loneliness and isolation on individuals and families.

By stepping up, we’re helping our clients navigate their legal challenges and contributing to a larger effort to counter the widespread social disconnection plaguing our society. The end result? A stronger profession and a positive impact on the lives of those we serve.

As legal professionals, we have an opportunity to lead by example and show the value of genuine human connections in our increasingly digital world. By adopting the recommendations from the Surgeon General’s advisory, we can help shape a brighter, more connected future for ourselves, our clients, and our communities.

So my legal friends, let’s get to work… We’ve got a trust crisis to tackle, and I’m ready if you are.



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