Workload

"So many wellbeing seminars by our firm, so little time to attend them." 


More than two thirds of lawyers have experienced mental ill-health, with junior lawyers at risk of burnout, a survey conducted by a wellbeing and mental health charity has found.

In LawCare's survey of over 1,700 legal professionals across the UK, Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, 69% of participants revealed that they had suffered from mental ill-health in the 12 months leading up to the survey, with the most common disorder being anxiety. 

Of the participants who had experienced mental ill-health, only 56% said they had talked about it at work. Those who had not disclosed it to their colleagues, said they feared the stigma around it could impact their career, reputation and earnings.

Almost a third of participants said their mental ill-health had put on a strain on their personal and family relationships. And 22% of participants said they felt unable to cope, with 6% saying they had experienced suicidal thoughts.  

One in five participants said they had experienced bullying, harassment or discrimination in the workplace.

Participants aged between 26 and 35 years were deemed to be most at risk of burnout, with high work intensity, large workloads and long hours. 28% of participants said that they were required to be available to clients 24/7, and 65% said they checked their emails outside of working hours to keep on top of matters. The survey also revealed that 12% of lawyers were getting less than five hours sleep a night. 

“This research, the first of its kind in this country, provides robust evidence that the legal profession is stressed, tired, anxious, at high risk of burnout and that those working practices in the law that undermine mental health need to change" said Elizabeth Rimmer, CEO of LawCare. "The experience of living and working through a global pandemic has had a profound effect on us all and presents an opportunity like no other to reimagine the future and make it happen.”

"There is still much work to be done in combatting mental ill-health in the legal sector," said Manda Banjeri, Chair of the Junior Lawyers Division of the Law Society. She added that it should not be accepted that "stress is a given" and that junior lawyers should be "supported" and "supervised" and that "toxic working environments become a thing of the past." 

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Comments

Anonymous 01 October 21 09:10

I was under terrible stress at a former employer. 24/7 expectations. Ended up with stress induced eczema flare-ups and inability to sleep. Quit with no job lined up. 

2 months off with a massive improvement in my sleep and health.

Amazingly, and I don't expect anyone to believe me, my previous boss and assistant would ring me on average every second day asking for help during those 2 days and even rang me when asking for assistance when I joined another employer!

Anonymous 01 October 21 09:50

Law firms are - on the whole - ponzi schemes aimed at making the people at the top richer whilst dangling the carrot of partnership. Not their kind of partnership though - the one where you are a glorified employee still grinding the corn for the same cosy group of mates at the top.

Dearie 01 October 21 10:02

I'm not sure if it's a comfort to realise that the experience I endured is, in fact, so common. Some genuinely nice people can be bastard managers, mainly because lawyers are appalling managers.

Anonymous 01 October 21 10:27

But if you hate it so much then why don't you just make a little time for BD?

Bring some clients in, get your own revenues each month, and then apply to be one of the real partners. If they say no, then go be one elsewhere.

It amazes me how many lawyers seem to imagine that one day their manager is just going to walk in and say "Yo, Jenkins, I'm going to start paying you a million a year and listening to your opinions about stuff - even though you generate no revenues and show no ability to attract a client following that might increase this firm's profitability". Just because they sat there cranking documents for long enough.

It's a strange entitled delusion that shows almost complete ignorance about the realities of running a business. Making up a no-clients associate makes as much business sense as making up a secretary.

Anon 01 October 21 10:37

I had three weeks' stress leave last year after months and months of telling supervisors I couldn't cope.  As soon as I was back, I had a disciplinary meeting and was put on a PIP.  The only reason things didn't go further was because I documented all the emails which HR weren't aware of as well as sending a lengthy email detailing the poor treatment and overwork I had endured over the years.

I could feel my mental health declining again as pretty much everyone in my department is quitting and the few who are left are getting dumped on yet again.  Learning my lesson from last time, I copied in HR to my email saying I couldn't cope.  The first thing I was told was not to copy in HR as investigations have to be made and it will permanently be on my file.

My firm makes a big song and dance about how much they value mental health yet do absolutely sod all to address the underlying causes (excessive case loads, unrealistic, unachievable targets, absolute dog shit pay).  The whole industry is toxic and the people in charge are complete sociopaths who value money above all else.

Anon 01 October 21 11:00

Law firms virtue signalling on mental health is the definition of hypocrisy.  Tell everyone loudly that you have a mental health policy to bring in the $$$, then thrash the lawyers into submission back at the ranch.  They don't give a sh1t, because as soon as you're a burnt-out shell, they'll move onto the next one.

Anon 01 October 21 11:01

Anonymous @10:27, do some BD?  Sure, I'll fit that in amongst 18hr days, 6 days per week.  The system is designed that way for a reason.

Anon 01 October 21 11:44

Anonymous 01 October 21 10:27 - Of course you can always move.  And, yes, firms chase the money.  However, that does not entitle any firm or individual to break anyone in the process.

Anon 01 October 21 10:37 - I had a similar experience in-house about 10 years ago.  I moved to a new division and the functional head was an immediate problem.  I was stripped of my line-management responsibilities (only found out when I went to organise personal reviews), micro-managed, placed on a PIP and nothing I could say or do made a difference.  Not even the Occupational Health reports made any difference.  HR were useless and refused to see the issues.  It ended with me off for 6 months and then redundant, admittedly with a settlement.

10 years on, I have only just stopped having flashbacks etc.  It made me very jumpy for years, whether I wanted to be or not..

Anonymous 01 October 21 12:29

"do some BD?  Sure, I'll fit that in amongst 18hr days, 6 days per week"

See, this is the kind of "chained to my desk and cannot leave" mentality I don't understand.

You just prioritise the Important things over the Not-Important things. BD is important to your career, cranking another pointless document is not. So you do the important thing and delegate, defer, or dump the not important thing. It's so obvious that I'm shocked so many seemingly intelligent people can't get their heads around the idea.

So what you do is you take a couple of hours in your 18 hour day and you look at the hum-drum tat that you are supposed to be doing in them and you either (a) delegate them if they have value, or (b) if they have no/low value, then just don't do them, or else defer them into the distant future.

In the rare instance that a partner notices that a minor item of trifling importance has not been done then you have a conversation like this:

Partner: "Jenkins! Why didn't you reply to that guy asking which page of the bundle some inconsequential document was on! Or at least get a trainee/paralegal to do it!"

You: "Because I was bringing in a new client that is worth many thousands of pounds a year to this firm, and then doing the work for them. This kind of triviality shouldn't be being sent to me, if it's sent to anyone at all"

Partner: "It would be totally unreasonable of me to expect someone who has actively generated revenues for this business (and whose continuing to do so will pay for my next holiday in Barbados) to perform menial tasks that could be done by a chimpanzee"

You: "Also, my name is Perkins."

 

Or I guess that you can continue to just do everything that you are told like some kind of spineless jellyfish forever, and then be amazed that nobody sees you as management material.

 

Ooooooh Jeremy Corbyn 01 October 21 13:55

Anonymous 01 October 21 10:27
 

Unless I’m missing the point this article is about burnout due to overwork, not the prospects of achieving equity. Congratulations, you’ve clearly never had the misfortune of being subject to the crushing and relentless demands of being a junior lawyer while trying to maintain a normal life, or you got made up on 4PQE in the early 90s.

Anonymous 01 October 21 17:51

I'm worried about the first comment. 

How bad is a firm to spend 2 months phoning a former colleague asking for answers?!

Anonymous 01 October 21 18:14

Anonymous 01 October 21 12:29
 

literally nobody , even rainmaker partners , has ever been in a position to answer that kind of question with that response. Ever.

Anonymous 01 October 21 20:03

"literally nobody , even rainmaker partners , has ever been in a position to answer that kind of question with that response. Ever."

...aaand that 's why you're at your desk grinding out ancillary documents with no end in sight.

People can and frequently do reply to enquiries as to why they didn't do unimportant things by saying that they prioritised more important things instead. But law as an industry seems to attract a disproportionate number of hyper-conscientious submissives who just don't know how to say No to anyone or how to tell them that they aren't automatically at the front of the queue.

By all means, be a Yes Man/Woman all your life, but don't expect anyone to think that marks you out as someone they should give away a chunk of their business to.

Anon 01 October 21 20:51

Led correctly, law firms can nurture and grow young talent to its potential. In doing so, they keep the youngsters happy. That happiness turns into loyalty, hard work and actually brings in more work. 
 

Why is this self evident truth not understood by 90% of law firms? Pure greed creates cultures of competition, pressure and silly billing targets which lead to the clients being robbed. 
 

There is a better way. I think it’s time I set up a firm based on proper leadership. 

anon 01 October 21 22:29

anonymous @12:29, firms work hard to ensure that clients aren’t portable. if you’re an associate working nearly exclusively for an client that the firm bills £1m+ per year across different departments, they are not going to follow you to a new firm. equally, you’re never going to get made up to partner working for this one client, because an any number of associates could easily fill your shoes. there’s little incentive for partners to share the wealth. the idea that taking a contact (most likely at the same relatively junior level as you) out for a coffee and lead to £hundreds of thousands in fees is b*llocks. 

Officious Bystander 02 October 21 14:52

Don’t like being a lawyer?  Too much for you?  Then quit. Plenty of vacancies for HGV drivers. 

Qanon 04 October 21 16:41

Anonymous 01 October 21 10:27

But if you hate it so much then why don't you just make a little time for BD?

Bring some clients in, get your own revenues each month, and then apply to be one of the real partners. If they say no, then go be one elsewhere.

It amazes me how many lawyers seem to imagine that one day their manager is just going to walk in and say "Yo, Jenkins, I'm going to start paying you a million a year and listening to your opinions about stuff - even though you generate no revenues and show no ability to attract a client following that might increase this firm's profitability". Just because they sat there cranking documents for long enough.

It's a strange entitled delusion that shows almost complete ignorance about the realities of running a business. Making up a no-clients associate makes as much business sense as making up a secretary.

 

the mistake you're making is that BD is all about bringing new clients in (not helped by shows like Mad Men which make it look like BD is all about schmoozing and finding new clients), a major part of it is keeping existing clients happy and keeping them sending you work in a competitive marketplace. That means keeping those existing clients happy and churning those documents out and making sure they are done to a good standard to retain your clients' trust so they keep sending you work. 

Also "doing a little BD" for new clients probably involves doing some work for free / at a loss to convince new potential clients your firm is worth instructing.

HTH for any training contract questions re commercial awareness. 

Anonymous 05 October 21 15:50

"a major part of it is keeping existing clients happy and keeping them sending you work in a competitive marketplace"

No you foolish invertebrate, that's someone else's BD. 

You aren't getting a penny for fellating John McSchlong's clients for him, so stop putting time in your diary for it. If that skillset qualified people for partnership then secretaries would be getting made up in their hundreds.

Stop making excuses for yourself and being such a doormat. Go out and get a client of your own.

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