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Hannah Gannagé-Stewart

Deputy Editor, Solicitors Journal

Report urges greater awareness of the impact of stress on the legal profession

Report urges greater awareness of the impact of stress on the legal profession


Research into stress levels among solicitors has revealed a 'disconnect' between lawyers' experience of stress and their response to it.

Research into stress levels among solicitors has revealed a ‘disconnect’ between lawyers’ experience of stress and their response to it.

“There is a lack of awareness regarding the deeper implications of stress in the legal workplace and an absence of insight into how improve the situation,” the report concludes.

The survey of 176 solicitors from across England and Wales, two-thirds which were from firms with fewer than 20 fee-earners, found that 76% regard stress and mental wellbeing as a major issue affecting the industry.

More than 60% of the solicitors responding to the survey reported high levels of stress, with 25% experiencing extreme or very high levels. Just 8% reported low stress levels.

Almost a quarter of solicitors felt that more could be done to support them with regard to stress in the workplace according to research published in April.

Of the respondents asked, 8% suggested employers monitor and track staff stress levels as part of a wider health scheme, 5% felt better staffing and monitoring workloads would help, while flexible working and less micro-management each were recommended by 3%.

Surprisingly, 55% said they believed enough is already being done, despite over 60% saying they were experiencing high levels of stress.

The Bellweather Research Paper from LexisNexis concluded that this represented a disconnect in how solicitors respond to stress.

“Significant number of solicitors are stressed, but more seem able to admit they’re stressed than acknowledge they have a problem with stress”, the report said.

“It seems that for many solicitors, stress is just an inevitable – perhaps even a necessary – facet of the job. While such a cultural logic persists in the industry, it’s reasonable to assume that law firms will lag behind other workplaces in prioritising employee well-being as an integral part of their business processes”. 

LexisNexis UK market development director Jon Whittle said: “Last year the government positioned the law as a professional occupation with the highest levels of work-related stress, depression and anxiety which we believe is cause for concern. 

The report was split on whether size of firm had an impact on people’s stress levels, with 43% saying firm size was a factor, the majority felt it was more of an issue in larger firms, and 45% believing firm side made no difference.

A recent resilience survey conducted by the Junior Lawyers Division found greater incidences of stress at smaller firms, so it seems the jury is still out on whether firm size plays a role at this stage.

On a more positive note, the LexisNexis research also found that job satisfaction was high among respondents, with 46% reporting either very high or extremely high job satisfaction.

“We found a robust, optimistic profession which continues to believe that hard work pays off in a bright successful future,” said Whittle of the group.