How LawCare supports legal professionals with stress
LawCare has been providing emotional support to legal professionals for over 25 years through our free, confidential support service. Throughout that time, almost every year, the primary reason for contacting us has been because of stress (which is often caused or exacerbated by a difficult working environment).
Life in the law can be challenging and sometimes things can seem overwhelming.
During 2022, people contacting LawCare for support mentioned a range of additional factors contributing to their stress: isolation, lack of effective support and supervision (especially when working from home or to a hybrid model), difficulties in adhering to reasonable work/home boundaries and a lack of support from managers.
Being undermined after a career break, an unreasonably heavy workload, financial pressures, career concerns, the pressure of billable hours and targets, workplace bullying, harassment and discrimination, fear of making a mistake, long hours and sleep deprivation, sometimes combined with domestic responsibilities, are all very common issues.
To compound matters, many people working in the legal sector have a driven, perfectionist personality that makes them more prone to stress. They often work long hours in pressurised situations, and believe they should always be in control. Feeling unable to cope with work can be particularly difficult and stressful.
Sometimes it can be hard to recognise there is a problem. Stress tends to build incrementally and people get so used to working at a certain pace or feeling a certain way that they don’t realise they need help.
Our support team can help
People regularly express their relief at talking to someone confidentially about how they’re feeling and help them identify where their stress is coming from. When they are in a difficult situation, they may lose their problem-solving abilities, it can be difficult to focus and it can seem overwhelming to choose what action to take.
If someone is uncertain about what is causing them to feel overwhelmed, we may suggest keeping a diary over a period of time to help to identify why they are stressed. When they feel that they are not coping they write down how they are feeling, including any physical symptoms. This helps provide clues about what is causing the stress.
Sometimes a listening ear and a sounding board is all people need to formulate a plan to improve their situation.
We might discuss work intensity, work/life balance and boundaries and ask about whether they are giving themselves any switch off time. We routinely hear from people checking emails at all hours, not taking lunch breaks, cancelling holiday plans and social arrangements and constantly trying to play catch-up. We encourage healthier boundaries and suggest that people also look at their diet, exercise, sleep and maintain regular social contacts.
If significant physical or mental health symptoms are being experienced, we will suggest a GP consultation.
Sometimes it will be evident that one particular issue is the main problem and we discuss how they might start to tackle it. We talk about breaking tasks into more manageable chunks and/or seeking support from a colleague.
Talking to a trusted colleague or a supervisor can help alleviate pressure and they may help identify possible practical solutions.
Many people who contact LawCare say that they find it difficult to tell their managers or colleagues that they are stressed, fearing they will be unsympathetic. But when stress escalates and becomes a more significant problem, many colleagues and supervisors say they had been unaware of the situation and would have offered support if they had known. Rather than being so hard on themselves, we encourage people to consider how they would feel if a colleague was having a difficult time; most would want to help.
LawCare may also:
- signpost to various resources on our website or from other relevant organisations.
- suggest our peer support scheme which provides ongoing support by telephone over a longer period. All our peer supporters have first-hand experience of legal practice and lived experience of a challenging time in their personal or professional life so are well placed to help other legal professionals.
- suggest mindfulness, counselling or coaching. Our additional support fund is available for those who satisfy our financial criteria and who would benefit from but are unable to access therapeutic support sufficiently quickly.
Please also see our Fit for Law online courses for legal professionals. Part 1 is about managing and understanding yourself and part 2 examines working with others.
Real stories of people in the legal community who have experienced stress, depression, anxiety and more.