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Oxford Women in Law (OWL) held a panel discussion ‘Being Yourself; Being Successful – creating wellbeing and mental resilience in the workplace’, hosted by Travers Smith in London on 24 April.
OWL is a networking group for graduates of the University of Oxford working in the law to discuss career issues, particularly those facing women. This event was in response to member feedback, and was the most oversubscribed to date.
The panel was made up of Kate Armstrong, a management consultant at McKinsey & Co, also a novelist, who shared her experience of a breakdown in 2011 which led to a two year break, during which she wrote a novel based on her experiences; Emily Clark a partner at Travers Smith, a co-lead on graduate recruitment for the firm, who talked about how she balances being a partner with family life; James Petkovic, a barrister from One Essex Court who has made good use of the resources provided by the Wellbeing at the Bar website for meeting the demands of a busy legal career, and Elizabeth Rimmer, CEO of LawCare, who gave an overview of LawCare’s role in supporting and promoting mental health and wellbeing in the legal community.
The discussion was then thrown open to the floor. A range of issues was covered: how can young lawyers adopt a balanced approach to work when the culture in their firm or chambers may not be conducive to this; the role of mentors in providing support; the perfectionist approach many lawyers have and the difficulties this, and overthinking, present in practice; should mental health and wellbeing be a component of the GDL and LPC curriculum, and what role experienced lawyers have in helping the newly qualified to see issues from their client’s perspective as a tool for managing what requires thinking time and what doesn’t.
“What struck me from listening to the panel and the discussion, was that we need to help lawyers recognise the importance of looking after themselves – eating well, socialising, drinking in moderation, getting some exercise and a good night’s sleep – as simple tools to help manage the demands of a legal career. Too often, when the going gets tough, the tendency is to cut back on the things that actually support and maintain our wellbeing,” says Ms Rimmer.
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