Legal professionals in UK and Ireland at a high risk of burnout – study

New research reveals the alarming state of mental health in the legal profession

Legal professionals in UK and Ireland at a high risk of burnout – study

An alarming number of legal professionals in the UK and Ireland have experienced mental ill-health, according to a recent study from legal mental health charity LawCare.

The study analysed data between October 2020 and January 2021 from over 1,700 professionals in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey, and Isle of Man, with an aim “take a snapshot of mental health and wellbeing in the legal profession to help inform future steps the profession must collectively take to improve wellbeing in the sector.”

The study found that a majority of participants (69%) said they had experienced mental ill-health – whether clinically or self-diagnosed. Common experiences of mental ill-health included anxiety, low mood, and depression.

Data from the study also suggested that legal professionals are at a high risk of burnout, with participants aged between 26 and 35 displaying the highest burnout scores. Additionally, one in five said they had been bullied, harassed, or discriminated against at work.

Elizabeth Rimmer, chief executive officer of LawCare, said the findings 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.”

“We want this research to be the catalyst for us to come together as a profession to create that change, to create a culture in law that puts the law’s greatest asset – it’s people – first,” said Rimmer. “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.”

Meanwhile, Stephanie Boyce, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said that now is the findings show that change is needed in the culture and practice of law.

“Legal professionals are at higher risk of burnout due to a culture of long working hours, high workloads, and not speaking up about work pressures or discussing mental ill-health,” said Boyce. “This new research by LawCare comes at a pivotal moment for the profession, as it seeks to embrace new ways of working following lockdown measures imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw many solicitors working from home. Mental health and wellbeing are priorities for my presidential term, and I have selected LawCare as one of the three presidential charities I will support in office, because of the invaluable work they do to provide mental health advice and support to legal professionals throughout the UK.”

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