Why we need to talk about lawyer wellbeing
Kedge Martin fears that lawyers in the mid-tier are becoming disaffected, suggesting that more needs to be done by firms to support professional wellbeing
Research published today reveals a discouraging picture of the state of mind of many senior lawyers.
The research found that 15 per cent of partners and law firm managers over the age of 40 feel constantly stuck in a rut at work, with a further 28 per cent reporting that they are ‘somewhat often’ stuck in a rut. Respondents complained they were demotivated, lacked a sense of purpose and were generally unhappy.
The results are hardly surprising given the pressures under which top level lawyers work. Such deep and long-term frustration at work can quickly lead to depression and a complete loss of professional effectiveness if not managed carefully.
For lawyers whose life has been hitherto completely career-orientated, feeling unfulfilled at work soon has an impact on their home life.
One senior partner at a mid-sized firm in the West Midlands, is typical of professionals I have worked with recently. He enjoyed a very successful career in the law, rising to the top of his firm.
He came to us when he became aware that he was not performing at his best and was worried that he was facing burnout. He felt it might mean the end of his career and he was reluctant to share the problem with either his colleagues or his wife.
Sadly, a third of lawyers surveyed believed that nothing would come from a frank discussion with their line managers about their career. A further 17 per cent had concerns that such a conversation might be used against them, while others (9 per cent) worried that it might be a pretext for redundancy.
Why don’t lawyers in ruts simply move roles? Moving to a new firm is generally not the answer, a change of scenery does not always translate into fulfilment. In fact, almost a third (30 per cent) of survey respondents feared they would not be able to find a job elsewhere anyway because of their age, and 25 per cent were worried about the financial impact of moving jobs.
The findings of this research, conducted on behalf of Rutbusters by Censuswide in May 2019, underline the need for change in how the profession approaches wellbeing.
Most firms are very aware of the need to nurture their talent, without whom there is no business. However, the measures put in place are clearly missing important factors in the professionals’ development of negative thinking patterns.
It’s time for a debate about how the profession deals with this hidden misery, which can all to often lead to mental health issues such as stress and even depression.
Neglecting the issue not only leads to individual suffering, most of which is entirely avoidable, but it also negatively impacts the profitability of the firm and reduces a partnerships ability to successfully adapt to the challenges ahead and thrive.
Kedge Martin is CEO of Rutbusters rutbusters.net