Eye on the Mind: A Look at Mental Health Problems in the Legal Profession

May 3, 2019

Category:

Mental Health in Law Icon

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Recent years has seen an increased focus on the mental health strains that stem from a career in the legal industry.

What does this mean?

For years, the cold, hard business culture in law firms meant that the mental health of lawyers had been overlooked. Mental health issues were long regarded as a hush-hush topic in the legal industry. However now, mental health is an issue that is being discussed more openly. As a result, there more regular surveys and studies taking place to assess how people are actually being affected. The results are startling. In a survey by the Junior Lawyers Division (a division of the UK’s Law Society representing lawyers from LPC level to the early years of qualification), they found that 48% of lawyers experienced mental ill-health. Statistics like this demonstrate the extent of the problem.

Why should law firms care?

The challenge with mental health problems in the legal sphere is that the causes appear to be structural. Researchers from the Open University have conducted studies after holding focus groups with lawyers from Belfast, Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh and London. The main issues that they found were the long hours of the job, high billing requirements and large caseloads. Aside from this, some found that the culture at their firm meant that they felt in competition with their colleagues, adding to the mental strain that they’re under.

Firms are now developing a better appreciation of work-life balance. One way which law firms are responding to the problems that are being uncovered is to offer flexible working options (read our recent report on flexible working here). This is allowing lawyers to take on roles that free them up to do things outside of work.

Last year nine law firms, including Pinsent Masons, Addleshaw Goddard, Clifford Chance and Hogan Lovells, launched the Mindful Business Charter. The Charter represents a shared agenda for supporting mental health and wellbeing. The companies pledged to promote a culture of openness about mental wellbeing and drive forward the actions and necessary change to remedy the mental health issues at work. Charles Penney, a Senior Partner at Addleshaw Goddard said that “mental wellbeing has a huge impact on organisations and individuals… In many instances, small changes can have exponentially positive impacts in reducing stress. This in turn helps improve retention, motivation, and productivity while addressing absenteeism.”

The Charter has the support of mental health charity Mind, the Law Society, LawCare and the Solicitors Regulatory Authority.

As regular mental health reviews are taking place each year, we can finally see whether tangible improvements are made on this hugely important matter.

If you’re struggling with stress or other mental health issues, you can contact LawCare by calling 0800 279 6888.

Report written by Idin S

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