A report published by LawCare demonstrates that 61% of participants were aware of a mental health policy implemented within their workplace. However, of these participants only 21% found these policies useful. A wellbeing policy / officer is simply not enough! We all know that… but what do we do about it.
At AltraLaw we are committed to nurturing our employees and creating a positive, supportive environment that empowers our lawyers to learn and thrive. The legal profession is (regrettably) known for high levels of stress, extreme workloads and unrelenting billable hours, with lawyers more prone to burnout than many other professions. We are committed to changing that and want to share our tips so other law firms can too.
Junior lawyers reported, in a 2019 survey for the Junior Lawyers Division, that the success of a wellbeing strategy is dependent on whether it is embraced by an organisation from the very top of the ladder all the way down. We couldn’t agree more. There needs to be genuine commitment at the highest level in an organisation to implement change and contribute to the de-stigmatisation surrounding this issue.
Implementing programmes and courses will not be effective if the culture does not support the lessons. Even confidential Employee Assistance Lines, where available, are under-utilised because of the stigma attached to perceived failure.
We, as lawyers, are expected to be able to cope, to be the best, not make mistakes and not need help. We are trained to believe that living a very intense and fast-paced working life is what should be accepted and, if you struggle, well, you’re just not cut out to be a lawyer.
What a shame that the profession cannot recognise that more needs to change in order to prevent staff from burning out or worse. The expectation of requiring unbreakable ‘resilience’ needs to be overturned.
Intervention is needed to make wellbeing a continuous consideration, top of the legal agenda and part of training and professional development for all staff working in legal environments.
Can you evidence it?
So how can you embed this strategy into your firm’s daily living? Simply (we say).. Prove it! Do something different and show the people who work with you that you are serious about supporting their wellbeing.
There are so many suggestions that we could list (we deliver whole training courses on this subject). We have picked five of the strategies we find of most use at AltraLaw for you to think about:
- Deliver a clear message from the top and ensure it is lived by those who say the words or implement the policies.
- Remove fear from your culture. If there is no fear, people will be honest about how they are feeling and struggles will be easier to overcome.
- Allocate specific time for staff to commit to learning and development around wellbeing by talking to people with lived experience, volunteering to help others or by contributing time to help other organisations address wellbeing in the legal profession.
- Encourage regular conversations surrounding mental health and wellbeing and provide support through regular 1-2-1 meetings, coaching and/or mentor services.
- Provide self-awareness and career assistance so that if people feel that they want to move on from law they are not afraid to do so and feel supported to look at other options – the law isn’t for everyone and nor should it be. There is no failure in that.
Supporting your next move
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