How are you feeling? – (yes, you did hear me right)

Describe the qualities commonly associated with being a lawyer. I bet “caring” isn’t one of them.

Now think of the questions you imagine a lawyer is likely to ask. “How are you feeling?” won’t be on the list.

However, as hard as some might find it to believe, lawyers are people too (although lockdown suddenly offering a screen-sized window into our homes and family lives will certainly have made this more believable than it was previously).  People with feelings and, sometimes, struggles –  big and small.

The job itself can be stressful and pressurised. There are times we work long hours and to tight deadlines. We manage a heavy workload and the stakes can be high.  As is the case for everyone, sometimes we have things going on in our personal lives which are difficult to deal with and juggling work and home commitments can be a challenge.

If you Google “lawyers and mental health”,  the search results don’t paint a pretty picture. Far from it.

In 2021 LawCare (a legal mental health charity) published research which found that over two thirds of lawyers had experienced poor mental health in the previous year but only around half of them had spoken about it at work. Following the publication of the report, the Law Society called for a mental health culture change in the legal profession. Time for a mental health culture change in the legal profession | The Law Society.

The research focusing on junior lawyers is particularly alarming, such as the 2019 survey by the Junior Lawyers Division of the Law Society which found that:

  • 58% of junior lawyers had considered taking time off work for mental health reasons but did not do so
  • 60% of junior lawyers’ mental ill-health had negatively impacted their physical health
  • 14% of junior lawyers have had suicidal thoughts

Junior Lawyers Division’s statement on the LawCare Life in the Law report | The Law Society

Behind the scary statistics, there are numerous individual (and personal) stories of talented lawyers experiencing burnout and ultimately walking away from the profession, sometimes permanently and sometimes before their careers have really got off the ground.

Looking after our lawyers and their mental health and well-being is good for everyone. It just makes sense.

When we do, our lawyers are happier, healthier and better friends and family members. They are also better lawyers. They are more productive, give better advice, are easier to work with, take less time off work and stay in the profession for longer. This boosts client service, satisfaction and retention, and ultimately profitability. That’s before we even think about the recruitment burden of replacing lawyers when they leave.

As one of Sackers’ Mental Health First Aiders, I am proud to be contributing to a positive mental health culture across the firm. Supporting my colleagues and looking out for their mental well-being is officially part of my job.

So I’ll ask again… How are you feeling?  How are you really feeling?

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