Loneliness in the law: what can I do?
Elizabeth Rimmer considers the effect of isolation on lawyers’ mental health
When was the last time you felt a genuine connection with someone? Do you feel like you can be yourself at work? Are your relationships at work and at home meeting your needs in terms of shared values or interests?
Is it just me?
Many legal professionals who contact LawCare feel lonely, often without realising they are. Loneliness can occur because we have a lack of quality and quantity in our relationships or social interactions. It can happen because we don’t have the opportunity to interact meaningfully with colleagues often or we don’t have close bonds with people we work with. While working at home suits many of us, the downside is we can feel isolated from our colleagues, teams, and managers. We lack a sense of community. For some of us, the only interactions we have all day are with colleagues and clients, so if these are merely transactional, and we don’t feel seen, heard and valued, that can compound a sense of isolation. Many solicitors spend more time working than doing anything else, so even if there are people outside of work that we feel close to, we often don’t have the time to pursue those connections either, so our relational needs are not met inside or outside of work.
If you are lonely at work and feel isolated from others it can negatively your performance, job satisfaction, creativity and work engagement. You are more likely to be off work regularly or leave the role entirely and it may also lead to problems at home. While it is normal to occasionally feel lonely, known as transient loneliness, chronic loneliness over a long period is associated with an increased risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and increased stress.
Connection and peer support
Humans are tribal and social animals and we need other humans. Our workplaces, our shared interests and our social circles are our modern tribes – and a sense of belonging, community and connection drives our happiness. Genuine connection exists between people when they can be authentic, when they can give and receive without judgement, when they share values, interests and similarities, when they feel able to disclose information about themselves and when they gain sustenance and strength from that relationship.
Some may find it difficult to know who to turn to when they are finding things hard. We may not have anyone that we can really talk to, and even if we do it may be difficult to open up to a manager colleague, friend or family member.
At LawCare, we have a network of around 90 trained peer supporters, people who work in, or have worked in, the legal profession who may have been through tough times themselves and can offer one-to-one support, friendship and mentoring over 2/3 telephone calls to those who need it. They understand life in the law and all its challenges - this is what makes our support service unique and supporters well placed to help other legal professionals, they really do understand life in the law and all its challenges. A review of over 1,000 research studies on peer support found that it helps people feel more knowledgeable, confident, happy, and less isolated and alone.
Applying for peer support from LawCare
If you feel a peer supporter could help you, visit lawcare.org.uk/peersupport and complete the form. One of our team will be in touch to discuss your needs and see if we can match you with an appropriate peer supporter depending on your circumstances and their availability. We expect to reply within two weeks of your application and it may take up to one month to allocate a peer supporter. Anything you discuss with your peer supporter is confidential (we will only break your confidentiality if we are concerned that you are at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others).
Elizabeth Rimmer is CEO of LawCare. LawCare provide a free, confidential support service on 0800 279 6888 (Monday - Friday 9am–5pm), or e-mail email@example.com or access live online chat and other resources at lawcare.org.uk. If you urgently need to speak to someone outside of LawCare helpline hours, call the Samaritans on 116 123.