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Wellbeing for Lawyers; We’re Not Actually All Automatons

Though we can’t usually get enough of thrilling subjects such as planning permission, probate sales and property information forms… today we interrupt our regularly scheduled blog chat to bring you an important missive on the subject of lawyer wellbeing.

This is a subject particularly close to our hearts. You see, though people often think of lawyers as professional automatons, spouting case law and legal regulations, the truth is that we’re actually real people with real lives. Beyond office hours, you’ll find us out living our lives with the same reckless abandon as the rest of you. (We’ll pause a moment here to allow you to recover from this shocking revelation.)

Of course, just like everyone else, us lawyers sometimes have a lot to deal with. We have happy times and sad times, joys and struggles. We have milestones to celebrate, tough things to get through, and physical and mental health issues to navigate. These things can be tricky at the best of times, never mind when working in an industry that is not, shall we say, traditionally known for its compassion.

When you’re working in such a fast-paced, demanding industry, everyday ups and downs can become pressurised and quickly lead to serious burnout.

How much of a problem is this?

We don’t think any legal professionals reading this will be particularly surprised by anything we’ve said so far. You’ll all be familiar with the typical workplace demands many of us are subject to. What you might not be aware of, however, is just how commonplace the issues of burnout and poor mental health have become.

A study done by legal mental health charity LawCare showed that 69% of legal professionals have experienced poor mental health. Even worse, only just over half of these professionals said they’d felt able to discuss their mental health issues at work; many of the other 44% were too worried about the stigma of mental health to feel comfortable doing so.

These findings have been echoed in many other studies, including a recent survey by the The Law Society which found that today’s junior lawyers are finding their work more stressful and less meaningful.

Speaking of their study, the CEO of LawCare, Elizabeth Rimmer said that their research:

‘Provides robust evidence that the legal profession is stressed, tired, anxious, at high risk of burnout and that those working practices in the law that undermine mental health need to change. We want this research to be the catalyst for us to come together as a profession to create that change, to create a culture in law that puts the law’s greatest asset – it’s people – first. The experience of living and working through a global pandemic has had a profound effect on us all and presents an opportunity like no other to reimagine the future and make it happen.’

So… is there anything we can do?

Call us idealists, but we believe that working in the legal profession shouldn’t automatically mean having to put up with permanent burnout. Though the work/life balance in this professional has a pretty shaky reputation, that doesn’t mean things have to stay that way.

In the six years since we started Newport Land and Law, we’ve been on something of a crusade to build a legal practice that works for everyone. And yes, that means we’re 100% committed to ensuring all our clients get the trustworthy, timely legal support they need and deserve. But we’re also 100% committed to ensuring the legal professionals that provide that support are well cared for.

In fact – because we like to put our money where our mouth is – we’ve developed our legal consultancy programme with this exact aim in mind.

We’ve done this by:

  • Getting rid of billing targets. Yes, you read that right. Billing targets are high on the list of stress-inducing legal work practices. We believe there are much better ways to motivate ourselves without inducing hernias.
  • Giving professionals total career control. Our consultancy model allows the professionals we work with to have complete power over the sort of work they do, how much of it they take on and when they do it.
  • Providing varied and rewarding work. A significant part of professionals being able to choose the kind of work they do is the freedom to ensure that their work is varied and that it feels rewarding to them.
  • Developing a supportive, inclusive environment. We seek to provide comprehensive support to everyone in our team, regardless of what stage they are in their career. Open, regular dialogue is vital, especially when it comes to building the kind of genuine camaraderie that makes people feel able to talk about burnout and mental health struggles.
  • Encouraging time off. Time in the workplace is obviously important, but we want to encourage our team to make sure they’re taking sufficient time out of it, too. This means taking regular holidays, setting work hours that suit their lifestyle and managing workloads so that overtime doesn’t have to be a given.
  • Celebrating other interests. Remember how we said lawyers aren’t actually automatons?! Well, we like to highlight that by finding out what makes our colleagues tick outside of work (whether it’s mountain biking, knitting or hot air ballooning).
  • Signposting to fantastic resources. We make sure that everyone on our team knows about the support that’s available to them should they ever need it. This includes resources provided by LawCare and The Law Society.

If you’re interested in lawyer wellbeing, or if you want to join our crusade to promote it, we’d love to hear from you. Why not start by taking a look at what we offer the consultants we work with?

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