Life in the law
By Nicola Laver
Research into working culture and practices will benefit future generations of lawyers, says Kayleigh Leonie
Mental health and wellbeing in the legal community has become a growing concern internationally in recent years.
While many employers are now seeing the wellbeing of their employees as an important part of their business, we remain a long way off alleviating the negative stress and pressures many people in the profession experience.
The covid-19 pandemic changed the way most of the profession worked overnight. In terms of positive effects, lockdown encouraged us to have more open conversations with our colleagues about how we are feeling during these uncertain times and it has allowed us to see a more human side of our colleagues.
There have, of course, been many negative implications. For many lawyers, working from home was incredibly challenging, not least for those with caring commitments.
The negative impact of lockdown on the economy has also seen a downturn in work with many being furloughed and now made redundant.
Job security and financial pressures are likely to be a concern for many legal professionals in the coming months.
In 2019, LawCare set up a committee to work on a research study to better understand life in the law.
The committee is made up of Dr Emma Jones (University of Sheffield), Professor Richard Collier (University of Newcastle), Caroline Strevens (reader in legal education at Portsmouth University), Lucinda Soon (solicitor and PhD researcher) and Nick Bloy (executive coach and founder of Wellbeing Republic) and me – alongside representatives from LawCare’s staff team.
The committee members have used their expertise on the wellbeing of lawyers to formulate the research study.
The research study was launched on 6 October ahead of World Mental Health Day (10 October).
The aim of this research is to explore how work culture and working practices affect the wellbeing of legal professionals in the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
To do this, it will use an online questionnaire to ask about an individual’s current workload and the requirements of their role (including any management responsibilities they may have); their working environment (eg how much autonomy they have and how supported they feel); what wellbeing support is offered by their workplace (if applicable); and what selfcare practices (such as a hobby or exercise) they use.
The results of this questionnaire will be used to improve the support available to legal professionals by enhancing LawCare’s understanding of the issues that arise in relation to mental health and wellbeing.
We will be able to drive cultural change across the industry to ensure that individuals working in the law feel properly supported and valued.
In doing so, it is hoped this research will benefit both present and future generations of lawyers by informing LawCare’s strategy going forward.
The online questionnaire is open to all current members of the legal profession and its support staff in the UK and the other regions mentioned above.
The aim is to include participants who represent a range of interests within the profession, such as the judiciary, solicitors and barristers, legal executives, legal apprentices and paralegals, legal secretaries and others (whether employed or self-employed).
The questionnaire can be accessed from 6 October at lifeinthelaw.org.uk and will take around 20 minutes to complete.
The questionnaire will remain open for completion until 31 December 2020 and LawCare hopes to be in a position to share the results of its research study in May 2021 (in time for Mental Health Awareness Week).
We strongly encourage anyone working in the profession to complete the survey and share it with their peers to support our mission of sustaining a profession of mentally healthy people.
If you are finding things difficult and need to talk, LawCare can help. We provide emotional support to all legal professionals, support staff and their families.
Call its confidential helpline on 0800 279 6888, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or access webchat and other resources at lawcare.org.uk