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“There is a risk this profession can become all consuming”.
This statement by Simon Davis (current Law Society Vice President) at the 2019 JLD National Conference really struck a chord with me. I regularly find myself missing out on life because of my job and using work as an excuse to miss social events.
I love my job, and this profession, but to thrive and to be at my best I cannot let it consume my life. We all need down time and we all need to look after ourselves - but those are the things we most often overlook or don't find time for. Personally, I feel guilty if I take time to myself and wonder how better I could be spending that time. But we must take time to look after ourselves; we must see that as a priority in itself.
The Conference also saw the launch of the results of the JLD 2019 resilience and wellbeing survey. Within that 48% of respondents reported experiencing mental ill-health within the month prior to completing the survey. However, only 19% of those suffering made their employer aware of this. Why are we still so reluctant to say “you know what, I'm struggling”?
This is a stressful profession. It is one where being resilient is expected of you. Some people wear that resilience for anything as a badge of honour. I remember early on in my career being told it was a case of “sink or swim” (luckily I don't work there anymore!). But we cannot let that mean that we just power through and struggle in silence.
The fact we are now having these conversations shows that the profession has come a long way. Nevertheless, the results of the survey show we still have so far to go - 77% of respondents said that firms could be doing more to support stress at work and 87% said more could be done to provide help, guidance and support in relation to mental health in the workplace.
We need a culture change and we need to create a working environment where we feel safe enough to say when we're not coping or we just need some down time. To do that we must get this to the top of the agenda throughout the profession.
Since we publicised that we would be hosting events for Mental Health Awareness Week the response from firms in the area has been incredible. I think we are now at a stage where it is not that they don’t want to address the issue, it is that they don't know the best way to start making the changes to their workplaces and the culture of the profession as a whole.
That is why, as current Chair of Cardiff and South East Wales JLD, I have organised a panel discussion on 13 May 2019 - the first day of Mental Health Awareness Week (“MHAW”) - so we can have an open and safe discussion on what is already being done and what more we can do.
You can register your place here – www.tinyurl.com/JLDPanel
For most of us, there is no escaping pressure in this profession. It is how we and our employers act in order to ensure that pressure does not convert in to stress and mental ill-health that matters. The Cardiff and South Wales JLD has also organised a Breakfast Seminar to provide some practical tips on looking after our wellbeing (with a free breakfast to ensure you start your day the right way!).
You can register your place here – www.tinyurl.com/JLDBreakfast
This event is kindly sponsored by Capital Law and Chadwick Nott.
Clare Good works as a Solicitor in the Commercial Disputes team at Capital Law in Cardiff.
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