Mental Health and Wellbeing in Law
We were recently incredibly pleased to host another Virtual Lunch event themed around ‘Mental Health and Wellbeing in Law’, in collaboration with LexisNexis and Crafty Counsel. We’ve been really keen to put on an event themed around mental health for quite a while, as it’s always frequently requested as a theme by Virtual Lunch attendees.
World Health Day seemed like the perfect occasion to finally address this big topic. Accordingly, we invited the fantastic Gemma Farina, Lawcare champion and in-house commercial contracts lawyer at Capital One, to discuss the mental health strain placed on those in the industry, and what LawCare can do to help. Here’s a breakdown of the big takeaways:
Good health is about more than just physical healthLet’s start by taking a step back. What does good health look like? The World Health Organisation defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. This serves as an important reminder that all too often we equate “health” exclusively with physical health, when in reality mental health is just as important. After all, we each have both physical and mental health, and both need looking after.
The importance of maintaining good mental health should be especially important in the legal industry, where many of the exciting legal workplace norms can also contribute to declining mental health. Fast paced environments can lead to overwhelming workloads. High achieving surroundings can lead to presenteeism. Constant learning cultures can lead to imposter syndrome. Working in law is a great career path, but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that it can undoubtedly put serious strain on the mental health of those working in it.
Why mental health matters in lawAn unfortunate truth of many roles within the legal industry is that mental health is sadly often an afterthought, and it shows in the statistics. A report published in 2019 by the Junior Lawyers Division found that 40% of junior lawyers had wanted to take time off for mental health, but did not. This is, in no uncertain terms, incredibly problematic. Good mental health is crucial for legal professionals to perform at their best. If legal professionals are not seeking assistance for mental health problems they know to be having, then something is culturally wrong.
Law requires clarity of mind, and critical gaze, and a high level of focus. These are all impacted heavily by poor mental health. Qualified lawyers are expected to meet ethical standards of integrity and honesty, and the same rule should ideally be upheld regarding mental wellbeing. We all have a responsibility to look after our own mental health – not just for ourselves but for those we interact with. Poor mental health affects conduct, which in turn impacts work. Poor mental health costs UK employers a combined £45 billion per year.
When our mental health suffers, it impacts our lives and our work. The work conducted in the legal industry is incredibly important for wider society and for our employers, but most importantly for ourselves. As laid out in the WHO health definition earlier, we each have a right to good mental wellbeing. Legal work is important, and our careers are important, but neither should come at a detriment to our wellbeing. You have a responsibility, to yourself, look after yourself.
What Lawcare offers to legal professionalsLooking after our mental health is, of course, easier said than done. However, things can be made much easier to handle with some outside assistance. LawCare are a charity aimed at supporting good mental health in the legal profession, and can offer support to those that need it. Since it was set up in the late 90’s by a group of lawyers, LawCare has since supported thousands of legal professionals struggling with the pressures of working in the industry.
LawCare offers free and accessible support, information, and training to legal professionals. This includes:
- A free and confidential helpline for listening and emotional support.
- A confidential peer support programme for one-on-one support from others in the industry.
- A huge online repository of educational materials and information on heaps of mental health topics.
- Mental health training for legal workplaces and organisations.
- ‘The Legal Mind’ podcast, which offers free legal industry-specific mental health information in an accessible podcast format.
- Register for upcoming Virtual Lunch events - don’t miss out on our monthly Virtual Lunch events! They take place on the first Wednesday of each month and are completely free to attend.
- Mental Health Video Playlist - These videos put together by our friends at Crafty Counsel aim to highlight the importance of mental health in law in an accessible and easily watchable way.
- 5 tips for keeping up mental health at home - this blog post from LexisNexis covers a few simple but comprehensive pointers for handling your mental health whilst working from home.
- Flex Blog: How to Keep Productive - this post emerged from another one of our Virtual Lunch events, and covers the neuroscience behind productivity.