Newsletter – May 2022
From the CEO
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and the theme for this year is tackling loneliness. The Mental Health Foundation reports that one in four adults feels lonely some or all of the time. We know that the legal profession is facing particularly tough challenges when it comes to mental health and wellbeing. LawCare’s ground-breaking research study Life in the Law found that legal professionals are at high risk of burnout associated with high workloads, long working hours, and a psychologically unsafe working environment. When we add loneliness and isolation to this mix, it has the potential to generate poor outcomes for lawyers and their clients.
In the survey that underpinned Life in the Law – which was aimed at all types of legal practitioners, including Costs Lawyers – 69% of participants reported experiencing mental ill-health in the preceding 12 months. Of those, only 56% talked about their mental ill-health at work. The main reason for this was the fear of stigmatisation, and the resulting career implications and financial and reputational consequences it could bring.
22% of participants said they had been subject to bullying, harassment or discrimination in the workplace. This suggests that nearly a quarter of all lawyers have been directly impacted by this kind of damaging, counter-inclusive behaviour during their career. And Life in the Law found that, in general, lower levels of psychological safety in the workplace are linked to higher levels of burnout.
Pressure on mental health and wellbeing is also likely to entrench a lack of inclusivity in the workplace. Life in the Law found that young lawyers, lawyers from ethnic minority groups and lawyers with disabilities reported higher levels of burnout than majority groups. Female legal professionals also averaged higher burnout levels than male counterparts.
Sweeping any mental health issues or counter-inclusive behaviour under the rug creates workplace cultures that undermine wellbeing, allowing loneliness and marginalisation to take root and grow. While 87% of participants in Life in the Law felt they should take responsibility for their own wellbeing as legal professionals, 84% of respondents felt that this responsibility was held jointly with their employer, and 46% felt it was also held jointly with their regulator.
We agree that workplace culture is a regulatory issue; it directly impacts the regulatory objectives in the Legal Services Act 2007, including promoting a “strong, diverse and effective legal profession”. Issues like burnout can also have serious negative consequences for clients.
LawCare has a variety of resources available to Costs Lawyers during Mental Health Awareness Week and more widely. You can also read a guest blog from LawCare CEO Elizabeth Rimmer on loneliness in the “Spotlight” section of this newsletter.