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Changes in operations, culture and leadership are needed to create a mentally healthy workplace and remove stigma around mental health, said an expert panel at the Legal Professions Wellbeing Taskforce round table yesterday hosted by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
James Pereira QC and co author of The Lawyer's 'Loving Legal Life' chaired an expert panel of senior leaders and mental health champions - John Blain, Partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Henrietta Hill QC at Doughty Street Chambers and Anna Robinson, psychotherapist and senior solicitor at Laura Devine - for an engaging and interactive discussion about practical steps on creating mentally healthy workplaces in the legal community.
The discussion looked at barriers to wellbeing in the legal workplace, with billable hours and long working hours one of the biggest contributors to poor mental health, as well as the analytical and perfectionist nature of the job.
The panel agreed it was crucial for wellbeing to be taken seriously at board level and that training senior managers in leadership and mental health - making their team’s wellbeing part of their job role - is the best way to begin to change the culture of an organisation.
John Blain from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer said: “If you look after people, they will perform better. The job will always be demanding so we must strive for better relationships, better procedures and better communication to ensure that we remain motivated and able to perform at our best.”
Wellbeing workshops tailored to staff, open communications around mental health, providing adequate resources and holding people to account for bullying or aggressive behaviour in the workplace were also mentioned. The panel also agreed that we need to redefine what success looks like in the law and how it’s measured - success doesn’t just mean working long hours.
Anna Robinson, psychotherapist and senior solicitor at Laura Devine said: “Millennials entering the legal profession now want to talk and be open, and they are asking firms at interview what wellbeing policies they have in place.”
Henrietta Hill QC from Doughty Street Chambers said: “There is no silver bullet - but we are beginning to embed a culture in chambers where mental health is thought about all the time - not just when someone has a problem.”
The Legal Professions Wellbeing Taskforce is a cross-profession taskforce set up to promote and support good mental health and wellbeing across the legal community.
Members of the taskforce include: the Law Society, LawCare, the Bar Council, the SRA, CILEx, CILEx Regulation, CILEx Law School, the Law Society's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys, the Institute of Paralegals, the University of Law, BPP, Newcastle University, the Junior Lawyers Division of the Law Society, the Young Barristers Committee, the Judicial Office, and the Bar Standards Board.
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The Legal Professions Wellbeing Taskforce is a cross-profession taskforce set up in 2016 to promote and support good mental health and wellbeing across the legal community.
LawCare is the charity that promotes and supports good mental health and wellbeing across the legal community in the UK and Ireland.
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