Junior Lawyers Division's statement on the LawCare Life in the Law report

The LawCare report Life in the Law, published today, is again evidence of significant mental health issues within the legal sector with over 69% reporting mental ill-health in the 12 months preceding the survey.

Almost a quarter of respondents were deemed to be junior lawyers. Of the respondents aged between 26-35 (and therefore likely to be in the earlier stages of their career and in turn more likely to be junior lawyers):

  • 43.6% reported suffering burnout
  • 28.2% raised concerns about autonomy
  • 23.3% raised concerns about psychological safety, and
  • 14.3% raised concerns about the intensity of their work

Whilst these statistics are concerning they remain unsurprising. The Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) undertook a series of surveys of its members between 2017 and 2019.

The 2019 survey found that:

  • 58% of junior lawyers had considered taking time off work for mental health reasons but did not do so
  • 60% of junior lawyers' mental ill-health had negatively impacted their physical health, and
  • 14% of junior lawyers have had suicidal thoughts

Only 19% said their employer was aware they were experiencing mental ill-health.

Whilst the JLD already knew the stark reality of mental ill-health in the legal sector for junior members of the profession, the LawCare report highlights new issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Younger professionals were 10% more concerned than their older counterparts about the impact of COVID-19 and 30% more concerned about their career progression.

Younger professionals also highlighted concerns about:

  • loss of peer support
  • opportunities to develop their skills and learn from peers
  • camaraderie and isolation

There is still much work to be done in combatting mental ill-health in the legal sector. However, today’s focus, as we leave the pandemic behind and look towards new ways of hybrid working, must be:

  • to stamp out the notion that stress is a given that must be accepted
  • to ensure the junior members of our team are supported and supervised, and
  • that toxic working environments become a thing of the past

As addressed within the report, meaningful and long-lasting change must come from the top, and we would therefore urge those in positions of leadership to take on board LawCare’s recommendations.

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