Mental health and wellbeing
The JLD is aware of the high levels of stress being put on some of our membership - including, but by no means limited to, city firms - and in particular the incredibly long hours junior lawyers are sometimes (or, in other cases, often) required to work. Having been in contact with LawCare, we understand that 41% of their callers in 2013 were either trainee solicitors or solicitors up to five years qualified. 86% of all callers identified they were stressed.
There are some firms who we see are taking positive steps towards promoting a healthy work/life balance. These firms are taking an active approach in organising social events, setting up sports teams, and organising weekly work reports to ensure staff are not being over-worked. However, in other firms, there is still a lot to be done and stress management can often be viewed as a 'box ticking' exercise.
The JLD are currently working on a programme to provide guidance and assistance to junior lawyers, trainees, and paralegals who are suffering from stress. The JLD recognises that there may be different causes of stress depending on whether somebody is working in the city or the regions and depending on the size of the firm in question. As such the JLD are currently looking at programmes that can help to identify the various different triggers for people and provide management solutions to all. The JLD recognises the importance of looking at how other professions deal with stress management to see if we can learn from them and, if appropriate, work in conjunction with them.
Unfortuantely, there remains a stigma attached to stress and as such many people feel that they cannot be open about how they are feeling. The JLD seeks, through various planned initiatives, to help reduce this stigma and give people avenues to pursue if they are struggling.
Newly qualified to five years' PQE
Moving into the job market as a newly qualified solicitor is extremely stressful, particularly when you do not know how your standard of training measures up with other candidates. What makes the process even more difficult for the newly qualified is missing valuable employment opportunities due to finding out too late that the firm does not have a role for them. In order to minimise this pressure, the JLD is campaigning for the introduction of a 'best practice' recommendation that firms should give trainees no less than 3 months' notice (prior to the conclusion of their training contract) as to whether or not they are being retained.
The JLD provides two 'Junior Lawyer Forums' each year (one in London and one outside of London - this was in Manchester in 2015), which aims to equip our members who are approaching qualification with relevant skills (and indeed members who are already qualified).
We also provide ad hoc assistance to our members, including those who are qualified. There has been a growing focus on specialisation, which has led to problems for solicitors aiming to change their own area of practice, and we are often advising our members on this. In 2015, the JLD will be looking to increase the scope of FAQs on the JLD website to provide a wider range of information to our qualified solicitor members.
We hold regular events throughout England and Wales (as do our local JLD groups). Please visit the events page for an up to date calendar of upcoming events.
We regularly reply to SRA consultations on behalf of our members. Please visit the consultations page.