Leaving Big Law To Help Other Lawyers Facing Mental Health Issues . . The 'Happy' Mission To Lift Lawyers
Jeremy Fischbach is a former Big Law attorney who became concerned about the extent of mental health issues in the law, and other professions, and decided to do something about it.
He left his career in Big Law to pursue part-time, flexible legal work through InCloudCounsel, and launched Happy – a smartphone app that offers anyone emotional support by connecting them with an empathetic individual willing to talk and listen.
He spoke with LawFuel.
Can you tell me more about your ‘journey’ from Big Law to setting up Happy?
I’ve always been interested in the power of genuine and supportive human connection.
I studied psychology and neuroscience in school, and have long been fascinated by their real-life applications: among others, the numerous times in life when we simultaneously need more support and our access to it disappears (students in new cities, parents, hard-working professionals, divorcees, retirees, sufferers of chronic health issues); the transformative power of supportive relationships; the mysteries of education that lead to children learning how to support plants before they learn how to support each other; and seemingly unsolvable societal problems like the social fabric of a country disintegrating without any mechanisms in place to repair it.
40 million Americans report that they are chronically lonely and 52 million Americans report feeling extreme stress.
What made you take action?
After practicing law at a large firm for a couple of years, a series of life circumstances made these issues personally and painfully significant to me.
I knew I would always be able to practice law. It occurred to me that I may have a shorter window to build the company I thought would be able to address these issues – societal-wide emotional unrest – at scale.
So I left Big Law, fortuitously discovered InCloudCounsel, and they gave me the time, income and flexibility I’ve needed to get Happy off the ground.
What was your process in the development of Happy?
First I built a team I thought would be capable of building the technological, conceptual and human infrastructure of a supportive culture.
Then we spent two years building that infrastructure. Now we’ve built 1) a state-of-art communication platform that allows anyone, at the push of a button, any time of day or night, to access the most caring people in the country — and to build lasting and supportive relationships with those people;
2) a nearly finished textbook that presents a unique theory of happiness capable of inspiring present and future generations to spend more time supporting each other;
and 3) a community of 2,600 of the most caring people in the country, a community so passionate about creating a supportive culture that they have volunteered tens of thousands of hours to our effort.
We will spend the coming years making Happy accessible to everyone who needs it in this country and beyond.
Were there any obstacles along the way? Any initial uptake the app received?
The path to getting any start-up off the ground is filled with obstacles: crystallizing the problem and solution, building a team, identifying a market, raising funding, etc.
These are formidable challenges that lead to the failure of 90% of start-ups.
Happy faced additional challenges: No company, government or society has ever created a truly supportive culture, one in which the essential ingredient of mentalhealth, emotional support, is available on demand, and where most of the population is not only skilled at providing emotional support but inspired to do so.
And how are things looking now for Happy?
Every early indicator suggests that Happy is successfully laying the groundwork of a supportive culture.
First and foremost, our callers love our service. After thousands of calls, our average call rating is 4.8/5 stars, callers report an average decrease in anxiety and stress of close to 50% for a single call, and callers report an average improvement in their mood of close to 50% for a single call.
Lawyers are 3.6 times as likely to be depressed as people in other jobs
Moreover, callers are “favoriting” 3 to 4 Support Givers each, a feature which allows them to build ongoing relationships with Support Givers with whom they have an exceptional connection.
We have also endeavored to make Happy affordable (it costs $12/30 minutes to use the service). After offering free first calls, we are seeing twice the number of paid calls to free calls.
Are you achieving wider acceptance with large health providers?
Based on our early successes, Happy is now being adopted by major national health organizations (e.g., the American Heart Association and MentalHealth America) as their go-to peer support resource.
We are also in partnership discussions with the largest healthcare companies in the country who are interested in Happy’s ability to greatly expand access to mentalhealth support — and in our mission of creating a more supportive culture.
Can you tell me about your current work at InCloudCounsel, and how you balance practicing corporate law while growing Happy?
In the early stages of a start-up, the most critical resources, time and money, are scarce. Getting a company off the ground also requires frequent travel.
Many start-ups never have a chance to see the light of day because their founders lack the time, money and flexibility to build the foundations of their companies.
InCloudCounsel offered me the perfect work environment – time, money and flexibility – to nurture Happy during its critical early stages.
Separately, because InCloudCounsel was, fairly recently, a start-up itself, its founders have been extraordinarily supportive of my efforts.