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Many junior lawyers experience
high levels of pressure at work. For many, this pressure has also impacted on
their personal lives and some have, as a result, either changed their role or,
at worst, left the profession entirely. Resilience and wellbeing has always
been a topic that I am very passionate about and my focus during my four-year
term as a Council Member for the Junior Lawyers Division of the Law Society of
England and Wales (JLD).
Following a chance meeting
with Chetna Bhatt of Being Lawyers at the Law Society, Chetna kindly agreed to
speak at the JLD's annual conference in 2017 on stress in the legal profession.
To understand and evidence the type and severity of the pressures junior
lawyers are facing, I put together a survey to canvass their views.
The survey results showed that more than 90% of respondents had
experienced stress in their role, with 26% saying they experience
severe/extreme levels of stress. In addition, more than 25% of respondents
stated that they had suffered with a mental health problem in the last month
(whether formally diagnosed or not), with only 23% of those informing their
It is extremely concerning that 73% of respondents did not know whether,
or thought that their employer wouldn’t provide any help, guidance or support
in relation to mental health at work. Additionally, 73% of respondents thought
their employer could do more to provide help, guidance and support in relation
to stress at work.
In response to these findings, I put together a guidance document aimed at advising organisations on how to best support their junior lawyers'
resilience and wellbeing. I was assisted in this by Nick Bloy of Wellbeing
Republic and I found his support invaluable.
The guidance is being released today to coincide with Time to
Talk Day and we hope that it will encourage organisations to adopt a more
active approach to supporting resilience and wellbeing in the workplace. The
guidance provides a list of key considerations for employers focussing on three
key themes: support; education and training; and culture. The guidance also
contains a storyboard setting out how best to approach wellbeing concerns with
employees which is something people often get nervous about.
Although the guidance has been prepared with junior lawyers in
mind, the contents are equally applicable for senior lawyers and partners, as
well as business services support staff. The guidance is also transferrable
across a range of industry sectors.
The legal profession has a long way to go to alleviate the stigma
surrounding mental ill-health. By supporting its workforce, an organisation can
significantly boost workplace morale, engagement and productivity as well as
attracting, developing and retaining the best talent.
Kayleigh Leonie has been involved with the Junior Lawyers Division of the Law Society of England and Wales (JLD) since 2010.