More than ever before, there is a greater focus on mental health in the legal industry. The profession is renowned for its long hours and high pressure—often underpinned by the unrelenting requirement to meet client or business demand.
Whether it’s a partner in a city firm working around the clock; a high street family lawyer juggling multiple cases; or an under-resourced local government solicitor—the effects of a challenging legal professional career can, in some instances, cause stress and lead to mental health problems. This isn’t a new phenomenon; it’s been happening for generations. However, in recent years, the legal industry is increasing efforts to change the trend by raising the profile of the mental health agenda and make improvements to the working life of legal professionals.
Well-being initiatives in the legal industry
Some of the initiatives set up in the legal community include:
- The Legal Professions Wellbeing Taskforce, a cross-profession taskforce initiated by the Law Society in partnership with other legal organisations to promote and support mental health in the legal community
- The City Mental Health Alliance, a coalition of businesses in London, currently chaired by Nigel Jones, Partner at Linklaters. The Alliance is steered by senior leaders striving to create a culture of good mental health for City legal workers, and to share best practices and increase mental health understanding.
In another positive step in tackling the stigma around mental health in the legal industry, some of the UK’s largest law firms and banks have collaborated in an “unprecedented alliance” to address avoidable working practices that can cause mental health problems and well-being issues for employees.
Developed by Barclays, Pinsent Masons and Addleshaw Goddard, the Mindful Business Charter represents a landmark pledge by cross-industry organisations—based upon a set of core principles including improved communication and respect of rest periods and the considerate delegation of tasks.
Many organisations pledged to take the necessary steps to support its principles including the Lloyds Banking Group, NatWest, Ashurst, Baker McKenzie, Clifford Chance, Eversheds Sutherland, Hogan Lovells and Simmons & Simmons.
The launch of the Mindful Business Charter is encouraging and symbolises further evidence of the legal industry taking the mental health and wellbeing of its employees seriously.
Technology’s positive impact on mental health
Technology often gets a bad reputation for its effects on mental health, but there are positive aspects to using technology to help with mental health and overall well-being, both personally and professionally.
In recent times, many forms of technology have been introduced into the market to help with personal well-being, such as well-being apps, online therapy, and digital reminders or mood trackers, to name a few.
Smartphone apps for well-being, such as Headspace, have helped to increase self-awareness and mindfulness, improve sleep quality, productivity, motivation and focus, and decrease levels of stress and anxiety.
In a research report by Mind.com, around a third of respondents said their mental health got much worse since March 2020. Online forms of therapy allow for increased access to mental health care and provide more affordable and convenient access to mental health professionals. This technology was considered a new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic, when in-person interactions almost ceased to exist.
Digital reminders for well-being practices
The use of smart technology to schedule reminders for actions such as taking medications, going to appointments and taking breaks from work helps keep busy individuals stay on track with their habits, and remind professionals to take breaks.
Digital mood trackers
Using technology to keep track of symptoms, events or moods can help to make steps towards better well-being practices in your day-to-day life. When you track these activities or feelings on a daily basis, you can see more easily what might trigger your feelings of anxiety or stress. With this information at your disposal, you have a better ability to take proactive steps to improve mental health, improved tracking of progress and improvement.
By using technology at your firm, you can also reap the benefits of greater confidence, spend less time on unbillable tasks and gain more time to do what you love – both at work and at home.
Greater confidence in your work quality
By using legal research or resource technology, you will gain access to templates, guidance, and best-in-class research tools, giving you confidence that you have what you need to do your best work, and that you haven’t missed anything in your research.
Less time on unbillable tasks
The best legal workflow technology allows you to automate processes that would normally take up many hours of your day and gives you the ability you to focus on the work you are truly passionate about – reducing burnout.
More time to do what you love
By using technology that allows for quicker, higher-quality work, you will find you have more time in your day to focus on things that are truly important to you – whether that’s taking on new business or going home to be with your friends or family.
Help is all around
There is a collective desire, now more than ever, to drive change in working practices that can fuel mental health problems. Embedding change, however, is not easy—but it is another positive step on what will be a long journey to improving the legal workplace culture.
How would you answer this question: Are you making your personal well-being a priority?