Negative stress is a real problem for lawyers’ wellbeing. High workload and client expectations are common causes of work-related stress.
Usually, the skills to work in a high-pressure environment are not taught at university or as part of legal training. So it’s easy to feel isolated if you’re experiencing negative stress as a junior lawyer.
As a profession, we need to reduce stigma around mental health issues. In the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) 2019 wellbeing survey, we found that:
- 58% of junior lawyers had considered taking time off work for mental health reasons, but did not do so
- 60% of junior lawyers’ mental ill-health has negatively impacted their physical health (such as being physically sick or experiencing chest pains)
- only 19% said their employer was aware they were experiencing mental ill-health
- 14% of junior lawyers have had suicidal thoughts
If we do not act now, the legal profession is at risk of losing some of its best talent.
What we’re doing
Since 2017, the JLD has carried out research on stress and mental health among junior lawyers, including surveys on wellbeing.
In 2019, 48% of respondents said they’d experienced a mental health problem in the month before taking part. This is 10% higher than in 2018 (38%) and over 20% higher than in 2017 (26%).
Between 2017 and 2019, over 90% of junior lawyers reported experiencing negative stress in the past month, with about 25% of those reporting extreme or severe levels of stress.
Read the wellbeing survey reports:
Guidance on supporting wellbeing
In October 2019, we updated our guidance on supporting wellbeing in the workplace to include:
- lawyers at any stage of their career
- business support staff
- specific recommendations for different sizes of firm.
First published in February 2018, the guide encourages employers to adopt a more proactive and inclusive approach to mental health.
Mental Health Awareness Week
In May 2019, Kayleigh Leonie shared her thoughts on the JLD wellbeing survey results and the importance of Mental Health Awareness Week.
In May 2018, we published a five-day blog series:
- Culture change for better wellbeing
- Introduction to mindfulness:
- Life after bereavement
What you can do
In our 2019 survey, over three-quarters of junior lawyers thought their employer could do more to support employees in relation to stress at work.
Read our guide on supporting wellbeing in the workplace and share it with your colleagues, manager or senior colleagues.
Listen to our free webinars and podcasts:
- stress in the legal profession by Chetna Bhatt (one hour)
- stress and resilience – soft skills training for junior lawyers (30 minutes)
- maximising performance and protecting your wellbeing in a 24/7 connected world (22 minutes)
Our helplines offer practical advice and assistance to solicitors and their employees.
We can also direct you to the most appropriate support for any professional or personal problems you may be facing.
The following organisations can help:
- Solicitors Assistance Scheme – free confidential help and advice for all solicitors in England and Wales, their families and employees, on any problem, whether personal or professional
- Solicitors Benevolent Association (SBA) – help for solicitors in serious financial need because of illness, accident, redundancy or other adversity (020 8675 6440)
- LawCare – supports and promotes good mental health and wellbeing in the legal community, provides resources and a confidential helpline (0800 279 6888)
- Mind – mental health charity
- Health and Safety Executive – guidelines for managing stress at work
Anxiety and wellbeing amongst junior lawyers – study by Professor Richard Collier, Newcastle University Law School (June 2019)
Law students and junior lawyers need more support – Elizabeth Rimmer, LawCare