Mental Health week

The Law Society and charity LawCare yesterday 9th May marked the start of Mental Health Awareness Week by calling on the profession to review its working culture.

The plea comes amid mounting evidence of high levels of stress and burnout. Nearly 70% of respondents to LawCare’s 2021 Life in the Law survey said they had experienced mental-ill health in the previous year, with young lawyers particularly vulnerable.

Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: ‘The legal profession should use Mental Health Awareness Week to take stock of its culture. The onus is often on the individual to “fix” their mental ill-health. In truth, we have a collective responsibility to make a positive work environment for everyone. We need to start talking about how some working practices contribute to an increased risk of poor mental health and how we can work together to change things. Tackling excessive working hours and workloads, as well as ensuring better supervision and support, especially for younger lawyers, are essential.’

Elizabeth Rimmer, chief executive of LawCare, said: ‘If we could encourage firms and workplaces to do one thing this Mental Health Awareness Week, it would be to work towards providing management training to all supervisors and managers, and free up some of their time so they can regularly catch up with their team members to check in on how they are doing.’

Suzanna Eames, chair of the Law Society’s Junior Lawyers Division, said: ‘Report after report has demonstrated that the overall culture in law is damaging to many junior lawyers, leading to mental health problems such as burnout, depression, anxiety and (in the worst cases) self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Employers that have left junior lawyers without support or supervision [during the pandemic] have seen staff burnout and choose to leave the firm or legal profession in order to protect their health.’