LawCare’s research study: Life in the Law

Kayleigh Leonie
Kayleigh LeonieLawCare trustee

Kayleigh Leonie discusses the past work UK law societies have done on wellbeing in the profession, and the aims of a new study that LawCare is running. You can contribute to the study and support LawCare’s mission of sustaining mental health in the legal profession by completing the research study’s questionnaire by 31 December 2020.

Solicitor working late

In 2016 the Junior Lawyers Division of the Law Society (JLD) prepared a survey to analyse the levels of stress and mental ill-health experienced by junior lawyers. The survey ran in 2017, 2018 and 2019 with over 1,800 junior lawyers responding in the most recent survey.

The results of these surveys highlighted concerning levels of stress and mental ill-health experienced by junior lawyers. In the 2019 survey, over 93% of junior lawyers reported feeling stressed as a result of work in the month before completing the survey and 48% reported experiencing mental ill-health in the month before taking the survey.

The JLD’s research has regularly been cited to highlight the wellbeing issues facing the legal profession. Junior members of the profession used it as a call to action to try to inspire change in the culture of practising law and encourage those who are struggling to speak up and seek support.

To provide employers with ideas on how to better support wellbeing in the workplace, the JLD released best practice guidance in 2018. The Law Society revised and reissued the guidance in 2019. It focuses on three core pillars:

  • culture
  • support
  • education and training

Employers have used it widely to put in place wellbeing strategies for their organisations.

In 2017 the Law Society of Ireland ran focus groups on the role of the mental health support that it was offering to its members, and to ascertain their levels of stress and wellbeing.

In 2019 the Law Society of Scotland undertook research focusing on workplace culture and how effectively businesses support colleagues with mental health problems.

Whilst it is great to see wellbeing and mental health of their members moving up the agenda, there has yet to be any profession-wide research in the UK spanning all of the legal professions.

About LawCare’s study

When I became a trustee of LawCare in January 2019 I expressed an interest in using what I learned through the JLD’s research to support a research study for LawCare.

In 2019 LawCare set up a committee to work on its research study to better understand life in the law. The committee is made up of Dr Emma Jones (University of Sheffield), Professor Richard Collier (University of Newcastle), Caroline Strevens (Reader in Legal Education, University of Portsmouth), Lucinda Soon (solicitor and PhD researcher) and Nick Bloy (executive coach and founder of Wellbeing Republic) and me, alongside representatives from LawCare’s staff team.

The committee members have used their expertise on the wellbeing of lawyers to formulate a research study.

The research study uses an online questionnaire which is open to all current members of the legal profession and support staff to the legal profession in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

The aim is to include participants who represent a range of interests within the legal profession, including members of the judiciary, solicitors, barristers, patent attorneys, trademark attorneys, legal executives, legal apprentices, paralegals, legal secretaries and others, both employed and self-employed.

The aim of this research is to explore how work culture and working practices affect the wellbeing of legal professionals in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man. To do this, LawCare’s research study uses an online questionnaire to ask about:

  • an individual’s current workload and the requirements of their role (including any management responsibilities they may have)
  • their working environment (for example, how much autonomy they have and how supported they feel)
  • what wellbeing support their workplace offers (if applicable)
  • what self-care practices they use (such as a hobby or exercise)

The questionnaire also uses three academic research scales for burn-out, psychological safety and autonomy.

LawCare will use the results of this questionnaire to improve the support available to legal professionals by enhancing its understanding of mental health and wellbeing issues. LawCare will be able to drive cultural change across the industry to ensure that individuals working in the law feel properly supported and valued.

In doing so, we hope this research will benefit both present and future generations of lawyers by informing LawCare’s future strategy.

How to take part

We launched the research study on 6 October, shortly before World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2020. The questionnaire takes around 20 minutes to complete, and will remain open until 31 December 2020.

LawCare hopes to be in a position to share the results of its Life in the Law research study in May 2021 in time for Mental Health Awareness Week.

I strongly encourage anyone working in the legal profession to complete the survey and share it with their peers to support LawCare’s mission of sustaining a profession of mentally healthy people.

Take part in the survey

If you’re finding things difficult and need to talk, LawCare can help. We provide emotional support to all legal professionals, support staff and their families.

You can call our confidential helpline on 0800 279 6888, email us at support@lawcare.org.uk or use our webchat. We also provide resources on our website.

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