Are You Mind­ful Of Men­tal Health In The Legal Sector?

The issue of men­tal health has been in the news a lot over recent years. The pen­ny has final­ly dropped that men­tal health in all sec­tors of soci­ety is a wor­ry­ing and grow­ing problem.

This is long over­due and final­ly shines a much-need­ed spot­light on the issues involved, includ­ing the heart­break­ing toll that issues such as stress, depres­sion, anx­i­ety and low self-esteem are tak­ing on UK soci­ety par­tic­u­lar­ly in the workplace.

Recent stats from the Organ­i­sa­tion for Eco­nom­ic Coop­er­a­tion and Devel­op­ment show that near­ly 61% of work­ers have suf­fered work-relat­ed men­tal health issues with a third of employ­ees wrestling with long-term men­tal health problems.

And in a typ­i­cal­ly British response, only 46% of UK work­ers feel com­fort­able dis­cussing their men­tal health with 20% pre­fer­ring to phone in sick than expose they are suf­fer­ing from a men­tal health episode.

The Costs Are Significant

A study by Deloitte in 2017 found that men­tal health issues cost UK indus­try near­ly £8bn annu­al­ly with 11% of all sick days attrib­ut­able to psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this is hap­pen­ing in the con­text of reduced men­tal health pro­vi­sion from state bodies.

The mes­sage is clear. These issues need to be addressed by employ­ers in the workplace.

Men­tal Health Con­cerns In The Legal Sector

It’s wor­ry­ing but not sur­pris­ing to find that recent stats for the legal sec­tor sug­gest that 50% of lawyers suf­fer from some form of work-relat­ed men­tal health illness.

The legal pro­fes­sion is by its nature stress­ful. The attrib­ut­es that make a good lawyer also make them more sus­cep­ti­ble to stress and anx­i­ety. The role requires high lev­els of stud­ied judge­ment and the need to deal with exact­ing detail on a dai­ly basis.

Then there are traits such as per­fec­tion­ism and the need to be peo­ple (or client) pleasers for both billing and career pur­pos­es. Add in the inevitable pes­simism the role requires for when con­sid­er­ing what could go wrong, com­bined with a heavy work­load, and you get a heady cock­tail of issues that can lead to men­tal health concerns.

Final­ly, when you over­lay the fact that tra­di­tion­al legal work­places are rarely con­ducive to indi­vid­ual men­tal or phys­i­cal health in that they have a com­pet­i­tive, hier­ar­chi­cal, high-pres­sure and his­tor­i­cal­ly macho cul­ture, it’s sur­pris­ing only one in two lawyers are feel­ing the men­tal strain.

The Need For Change

It’s great that men­tal health is now recog­nised as an issue, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the legal indus­try, as long as steps are being tak­en to address it. The encour­ag­ing news is that the legal sec­tor is start­ing to tack­le the prob­lems and look­ing for ways to lessen the impact the indus­try can have on the men­tal health of employ­ees. Bet­ter still, the sec­tor is devel­op­ing some use­ful ideas and inter­ven­tions to change the cul­ture and make proac­tive changes. And not before time.

It’s ear­ly days, but some of the ini­tia­tives under devel­op­ment, if imple­ment­ed well, have a good chance of chang­ing the legal sec­tor for the bet­ter. Here are some of the solu­tions cur­rent­ly in flight.

  • Cul­ture change pro­grammes. A good num­ber of firms are now deter­mined to engage with the men­tal health agen­da. These inter­ven­tions include a holis­tic pro­gramme of work that includes rais­ing aware­ness of and chang­ing, the atti­tudes con­cern­ing men­tal health in the work­place. Ini­tia­tives may include proac­tive improve­ments in work/​life bal­ance, flex­i­ble work­ing, men­tal health first aiders, encour­ag­ing staff to open up about their issues and train­ing lead­ers in how to spot and man­age men­tal health issues in their teams. Such pro­grammes are ambi­tious and chal­leng­ing to imple­ment, but they are always worthwhile.
  • The Mind­ful Busi­ness Char­ter. Allied to the above this char­ter encour­ages legal and law firms to sign up to an approved code of con­duct that pro­motes good men­tal health in the work­place. High-lev­el sig­na­to­ries since the 2017 launch include Pin­sent Masons, Bar­clays and Addle­shaw Goddard.
  • Pro men­tal health tech­niques and philoso­phies. Some firms are look­ing at meth­ods that employ­ees can use to strength­en men­tal resilience. Mind­ful­ness has had a lot of pub­lic­i­ty in recent years and has proven to be use­ful in deal­ing with issues like anx­i­ety. Oth­er ideas include eso­teric approach­es like the use of east­ern philoso­phies and spir­i­tu­al guid­ance sessions.
  • Tech Solu­tions. App-based prod­ucts like Spill. Found­ed in 2017 this app gives access to ther­a­py and coun­selling ser­vices to its sub­scribers. Law firms can pay for a cor­po­rate sub­scrip­tion that allows their employ­ees to use this unique tech solu­tion to tack­le their men­tal health issues quick­ly and efficiently.

These are all encour­ag­ing ini­tia­tives and clear­ly demon­strate that the legal sec­tor is start­ing to take the core issues seri­ous­ly and is seek­ing clever and cre­ative ways to make a difference.

Imple­men­ta­tion Is Everything

Now the ball’s rolling the empha­sis needs to change. As legal firms start to recog­nise and embrace the men­tal well­be­ing needs of employ­ees, it’s now time to fol­low through. Law firms have to live up to the hype and not just tick box­es before mov­ing onto the next work­place issue.

Men­tal well­be­ing solu­tions should ensure there is a last­ing change in work­place cul­ture. One that encour­ages gen­uine auton­o­my of work, a sense of pur­pose, mean­ing­ful per­son­al devel­op­ment and a car­ing, com­pas­sion­ate envi­ron­ment where peo­ple can talk about their feel­ings freely and with­out judgement.

There is still some way to go, but the ini­tial signs are promis­ing. And with an ever-widen­ing vari­ety of tech­niques under devel­op­ment allied to a grow­ing aware­ness of the issues, the legal sec­tor can only ben­e­fit from tak­ing staff men­tal well­be­ing seriously.

What’s more, as a final pay off, those firms that have imple­ment­ed these kinds of pro­grammes are find­ing that not only are their staff hap­pi­er and more pro­duc­tive, their clients are more sat­is­fied as well. In fact, some clients now demand that their firms have a mean­ing­ful well­be­ing pro­gramme – and/​or want tips and sup­port from their firms in devel­op­ing the same for them­selves. All this ulti­mate­ly has a pos­i­tive impact on the bot­tom line – hap­py stake­hold­ers, greater pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, less sick days, more rev­enue – not much to argue with there!

Get In Touch

Lex­So­lu­tions has devel­oped a series of unique well­be­ing and mind­ful­ness pro­grammes. Some are themed around Empa­thy, Resilience, Over­load, Stress. Oth­ers are more bespoke. Either way, they are designed to pro­vide our in-house and law firm clients with a menu from which to select options – from sup­port­ing indi­vid­u­als or teams on key aspects right through to embed­ding an inno­v­a­tive and busi­ness-aligned cul­ture with a strong empha­sis on employ­ee wellbeing.

For a dis­cus­sion on how Lex­So­lu­tions can sup­port your team, depart­ment and/​or firm to devel­op a cor­po­rate cul­ture that sup­ports and empow­ers your staff con­tact us direct­ly at chris@​lexsolutions.​com or manu@​lexsolutions.​com or call 0203 7451574.

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