These cases demonstrate why everyone in the legal community needs to take the mental health and wellbeing of lawyers seriously. The consequences of not doing so can lead to careers being destroyed and the reputation of the profession damaged.
Mental health in the legal workplace is a leadership responsibility. We call on leaders from across the community - from regulation, education, professional bodies and practice - to work with each other and LawCare to develop best practice to improve the working culture in the law. We need to take a careful look at how we educate and train lawyers about mental health and wellbeing and prepare them for practice, every lawyer coming into the profession should understand that there may be a time in their career when they may struggle, and know where to get help. We need to pay particular attention to the needs of junior lawyers for supervision and support with making the transition into practice.
We know at LawCare from over twenty years of supporting lawyers that the long working hours and competitive culture in the legal profession can lead to poor mental health, affect decision-making and lead to mistakes being made. Lawyers are often perfectionists and find it very hard to admit mistakes for fear of being seen as weak. The working environment in many law firms and chambers does not support a culture where lawyers feel able to tell colleagues they have made a mistake. We must do something about this, as the consequences of not admitting mistakes or trying to resolve them can lead to the end of your career. No lawyer should be working in an environment where they are struggling with the pressures of work and are fearful or anxious about talking to colleagues about it.
These cases have been devastating for the solicitors involved, their firms and their clients, and may have been avoided had these lawyers been better supported in the workplace and felt able to talk about their problems. LawCare provides a free, independent and confidential helpline for anyone in the legal community facing issues such as the ones highlighted in these cases.
At LawCare we are taking active steps to promote good mental health and wellbeing and tackle the stigma that makes it hard for lawyers to talk about their problems, we want to see a culture change that leads to the value of good mental health being embedded across legal education, training and practice.
On November 27, with the Legal Professions Wellbeing Taskforce which LawCare set up with the Law Society, we are organising an event on creating mentally healthy workplaces in the legal profession which will touch on the issues raised in these cases and what practical steps can be taken by firms and chambers to create positive working environments where lawyers can be at their best.
More information https://mentallyhealthylegalworkplaces.eventbrite.co.uk
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