As part of its agenda for the last three years, the executive committee of JLD has been focusing on supporting junior lawyers experiencing mental ill-health and high levels of stress at work and raising awareness of these issues in the legal profession.
To ascertain the extent of the levels of stress and mental ill-health among junior lawyers, the JLD conducted its first survey in 2017 which received over 200 responses. The 2017 survey found that more than 90% of junior lawyers experienced stress in their role with 26% of those experiencing severe/extreme levels of stress. More than 25% of junior lawyers stated that they had experienced mental ill-health in the last month (whether formally diagnosed or not). It was clear to the JLD that high levels of stress and mental ill-health affected the majority of its members (specifically, paralegals (who have obtained their LPC), trainee solicitors and solicitor up to five years’ qualified).
The JLD ran its resilience and wellbeing survey again in 2018 and it received nearly 1,000 responses. The overall figures in relation to stress remained the same as in 2017, however, the proportion of men regularly reporting either severe or extreme levels of stress increased from 20% to 26%. In 2018, high workload and client demands and expectations were the most commonly selected causes of stress, whereas high workload and ineffective management were the most common causes in 2017.
In relation to mental ill-health, more than 38% of junior lawyers stated they had experienced mental ill-health in the last month (whether formally diagnosed or not), an increase of almost 13% from the 2017 survey. The largest change was in relation to trainees, 19% reported experiencing mental ill-health in the last month in the 2017 survey compared to 38% in 2018. You can read the survey results report for 2017 & 2018 surveys here.
Guidance for best practice for supporting resilience and wellbeing in the workplace
To support employers in meeting some of these challenges, the JLD developed best practice guidance aimed at reducing stigma and fostering positive mental health. The guidance is designed to give employers ideas on how to build a successful wellbeing strategy for their organisation. The guidance focuses on three core pillars (1) support; (2) education and training; and (3) culture; to enable organisational change. You can view the guidance here.
The JLD has hosted two roundtable events with law firms to promote mentally healthy workplaces. These roundtable events involve a discussion on the recommendations in the guidance. As part of the discussion, law firms are encouraged to share their best practice and positive/negative experiences of running initiatives internally. By giving firms an opportunity to speak openly about their wellbeing strategies and what they are doing (under Chatham House rules), it helps give ideas to other firms who are still in the process of planning their own strategies. The next roundtable is taking place on 5 March 2019 and do let us know if you would like more information or to attend.
If you’ve got any questions about the above, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.