Sara Ellis, a Lawyers Depression Project board member and social work student, explains why the legal community must create better messaging and more empathy for mental health issues.
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As an undergraduate student, Sara Ellis majored in music business and industry, which was a fantastic background for becoming a music copyright litigator. Although she didn’t anticipate working in IP law, having a detailed background in music history and her prior interest in managing bands helped Sara when she protected the interests of musicians.
“I wanted to manage bands,” explains Sara Ellis in Episode 84 of You Are A Lawyer.
Sara’s work included notable cases like the Blurred Lines case brought by the estate of Marvin Gaye. Her music education coursework included a copyright course that sparked Sara’s interest in becoming a lawyer.
After attending law school at the University of Tennessee, Sara thought it was a natural progression to earn her Master’s Degree at the University of Tennessee. Because Sara enjoyed her copyright course while an undergrad, she wanted to continue focusing on musicians and working in IP law.
Sara practiced music copyright litigation for ten years and left this practice because of the long work hours, which often included working all seven days of a week.
“I get to have dinner with my husband every night. I don’t generally work past 6 p.m. every day,” Sara shared when asked about the difference between law school and earning her Master’s degree, Sara explained the perks of her social work degree.
When asked for advice to law students or new lawyers, Sara shared, “Make sure the job you want supports you as a human being, not just the paycheck.” Although school loans are large, it is more important to take the right job that the job with the biggest paycheck.
Sara wanted to be a therapist for professionals, so she pursued a Master’s degree in Social Work. On the macro level, studying social work allows Sara to work with companies on an organizational management level. On the micro level, Sara can work individually with lawyers or their legal practices.
When asked whether Sara would create a business that includes her IP law background and mental health, Sara explained that her practice would only include a little of her IP experience.
“Other than just not stealing images from the internet to create my eventual website,” Sara Ellis shared while laughing.
Changing how lawyers discuss mental health and finding work/life integration can make a massive difference in every lawyer’s life.
Founded in 2019, the Lawyers Depression Project is a peer support group for legal professionals. Sara Ellis found the project in 2022 and began working with the project as a board member and later joined the executive committee.
“Lawyers, judges, paralegals, legal admins, if you’re in the legal space, the Lawyers Depression Project can provide support. And it’s not just about depression,” explains Sara Ellis.
The Lawyers Depression Project offers a safe space for legal professionals to gain resources and share their mental health issues. Sara explains that many lawyers were expected to deal with issues and never mention them, but the conversation is becoming more visible and inclusive.
“You’re not alone. There is help. Help does help. And there’s a way to successfully manage struggles and be a thriving attorney,” shared Sara in Episode 84 of You Are A Lawyer.
Sara uses percentages to show that you are not alone in your mental health issues to explain that lawyers should not be scared or afraid of these issues. When sharing details of the vast number of law students who are depressed, Sara emphasizes that lawyers are not the only ones experiencing these issues.
Sara Ellis is licensed to practice law in Tennessee. Learn more about Sara Ellis:
Lawyers Depression Project: www.lawyersdepressionproject.org
Sara’s work with the Lawyers Depression Project: https://www.lawyersdepressionproject.org/515-2/
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