Is Mental Health Outside the Law?
A few years ago, the offer of personal setback coaching within the legal sector would have led me to many a closed door, but thankfully more and more firms are recognising the need to address the well-being of mind in their teams of highly pressurised lawyers.
Taylor Wessing began this year by issuing a pilot for the mindfulness app, ‘Headspace’ and the 100 licences on offer were snapped up in minutes leading the forward-thinking law firm to allocate annual usage for each employee. If anyone tries to tell you that “mumbo jumbo” is not for the legal sector, they would be ill advised as the company clock up around 10,000 hours per month of usage.
Last year, I ran a mindfulness space at Weightmans, a free to attend event over lunch time. I expected a few people but was astounded at the crowd that gathered and at the feedback received that something so simple had been so helpful. Mindfulness may be old news to many corporate and private sectors, but to the legal sector it’s the new kid on the block!
Preventative or Reactive?
Yes, firms may have Mental Health First Aiders and Employee Engagement Programmes, but what Taylor Wessing and Weightmans are doing in these initiatives is preventative in so far as they are giving employees tools to cope with stressful situations. They are making it clear that mental health is on the agenda more so than ticking boxes on a Corporate Social Responsibility document. Wellbeing rooms and five minute massages are all great but do they bring long lasting support and prevent huge costs incurred by presenteeism? Within the findings of the CIPD’s 2019 Health and Wellbeing at Work survey, only half of participants within the private sector reported that their organisation’s efforts to reduce stress were effective and less than half felt their line managers bought in to the concept of well-being.
The 4P Problem
Speaking with legal professionals recently at Wright Hassall, Wilkes, and The Bristol Law Society, I have ascertained four main reasons why coaching is a vital tool for today’s successful lawyers:
- Poor work-life balance. Pressure on targets, billable hours and business development expectations are highlighted as a constant challenge. Many lawyers work long hours in the office and further hours when they return home just to meet the demands of their job.
- Perfectionism When the slightest error can cost your clients and partners dearly perfectionism and imposter phenomenon is a constant challenge.
- Personal Expectations Lawyers are exposed daily to client’s life changing challenges and are tasked with providing successful solutions, in agreed time scales. This can often lead to unrealistic expectations and constant pressure for lawyer.
- Poor Provision In most caring professions, provision is made for those helping people cope with tragedy but historically in the legal sector a stiff upper lip has been more routinely suggested as an antidote to vicarious trauma than a session with a supervisor or therapist.
So what can we do to help our profession?
Organisations such as Law Care as well as the afore mentioned Mental Health First Aid and Employee Assistance Programmes are available within most reputable organisations but there is a definite benefit for those organisations doing more.
In 2018, along with Barclays Bank and Pinsent Masons, several law firms drew up The Mindful Business Charter. Signatories now include banks Lloyds Banking Group and NatWest, and the law firms Ashurst, Baker McKenzie, Clifford Chance, Eversheds Sutherland, Hogan Lovells, Norton Rose Fulbright and Simmons & Simmons.
Seen by some at the time as baby steps, the charter at least went someway to addressing the fact that professional advisors, no matter how well they are paid, deserve to be healthy in mind and have a life outside of the office. In signing the pledge, organisations are acknowledging that well-being is an issue that needs to be out in the open and that is progress indeed. With 93% of Junior Lawyer’s Division 2019 survey respondents reporting stress in the workplace, we cannot stop here, there is a lot more to do to protect ourselves and our clients in the legal sector. For information on how you can support your legal professionals more efficiently go to https://www.guruyoucoach.com/contact/
For more information on how Rebecca and her team can support your highly valued partners and executives, please contact Rebecca on +44 (0)1926 485 465 or +44 (0)7930 147799.