Rise in calls about bullying to LawCare
A disproportionate number of women contacted legal mental health charity LawCare in 2019.
There was also a marked increase in calls triggered by bullying.
The independent charity has just published figures relating to the calls it received from lawyers (including contact via email and webchat) in 2019, showing a continuing rise year on year.
The figures revealed more than two thirds of last year’s 667 callers were women (67 per cent); and more than half of all callers were trainee solicitors, pupil barristers or young lawyers of less than five years’ experience.
Unsurprisingly, stress and depression were the most common issues cited, however, bullying emerged as the second highest issue prompting an increasing number of bullying-related calls.
Bullying was cited by 12 per cent of calls representing 80 lawyers in 2019 – a significant jump from 47 the previous year.
LawCare said 66 per cent of callers citing bullying said the perpetrator was a manager or superior.
Elizabeth Rimmer, LawCare’s Chief Executive Officer, said the charity spent 304 hours providing support on the phone last year, answering a call every 2½ hours.
She commented: “The biggest trend we’ve noticed is the number of people contacting us about bullying and harassment which is now one of the top three issues people contact us about, possibly because of a lot more attention on this issue in the media over the past couple of years.”
Matthew Richardson, a barrister and family mediator who regularly speaks on wellbeing issues, said these are “fascinating statistics and worthy of very considered attention by everyone in the legal sector”.
He commented: “The picture they paint is certainly a mixed one: the negatives on one hand are that the legal workplace appears to still be as stressful and difficult as ever, and possibly worsening, and that bullying and harassment may be on the rise.
Further, it seems that women may be more badly affected by some of these issues, and or men feel less able to seek support. Probably it is a combination of the two.”
Rimmer commented: “Women tend to find it easier than men to ask for help, but we would like to encourage more men in the profession to reach out to us.
“Our service is completely confidential and talking to someone who understands life in the law can be really therapeutic.”
But Richardson highlights how the figures show more people are seeking support.
He added: “I see the rise in contacts to LawCare as, in many ways, a good thing.
“The stresses and strains of this job are hardly new, but what is emerging is a change in the collective mindset where people are increasingly unwilling to put up with destructive ways of working, and increasingly asking for help.
“The demand for change grows ever louder.”
Last year, the charity funded 38 hours of counselling and appointed 18 new LawCare champions –legal professionals acting as mental health and wellbeing advocates within the legal community.
Rimmer said the charity will be undertaking more detailed research later in the year to discover exactly how the culture of law is impacting on wellbeing and mental health.
“We hope”, she added, “to use this to drive change in legal workplaces.”