Lawyers have reached their limit of stress, according to a legal consultant who is pushing for wellbeing to make top of the agenda at law firms across the country.
With more than 20 years’ experience in law – and suffering from chronic stress through some of it – she believes it’s time for wellbeing to take priority as more and more lawyers leave the vocation.
Since she realised the impact of chronic stress on her career, health and life in 2015, she became an avid researcher into the mental health of lawyers.
A Law Society poll from 2015 found that 95 per cent of legal workers surveyed, suffering from moderate to severe work-related stress. At that time law was also considered to be one of the most stressful professions, above the emergency services and armed forces.
Hannah said the man reason for stress in the industry is concerned with billing and chargeable hours targets, whilst having to deal with utilisation figures and write off explanations.
She said: “The problem with lots of lawyers is that they can’t switch off – the work is never done.
“Character traits that tend to bring us into law – the ones law firms even hire for – include people pleasing, being a yes person, perfectionist tendencies and similar.
“These sorts of personalities have a higher likelihood of succumbing to stress and ultimately burnout. Especially combined with a profession who saw finishing on time, taking your holidays, resting and recuperating, as laziness or a demonstration of a lack of commitment.”
She believes that the reason lawyers are leaving the profession in droves is because health and wellbeing matters to them and while those practising are told wellbeing is on the agenda, the numbers of lawyers suffering is still increasing.
Another reason that stress is at its peak is management buy-in and she says that is due to senior staff are setting examples to junior staff regarding prioritising the billing and client work.
“We need to start investing in our people and understanding what support they need, then providing it,” Hannah added. “Not only is it the right thing to do, to look after our people, but happy lawyers are more productive lawyers and even provide a better customer service.”