Is flexible working the answer to stress in the legal profession?

Is flexible working the answer to stress in the legal profession?

 

“Some love the corporate environment: the after-work beers, the client dinners, the sense of belonging. “I hated that,” says Jack Celand, who trained at a top 10 UK law firm. “I couldn’t wait to get home after work. My body felt ruined from all the stress and strong coffee.”

Others agree. “There’s talk of burnout but people stick with it because it’s a long process getting the job,” says 28-year-old lawyer Olivia Smith.

Does this resonate with you?

The Guardian, the FT and LexisNexis are among the many publishers who have addressed the concept of stress in the legal sector. It is no secret that such a rewarding profession, at times, asks a lot from its lawyers.

Our own research has taught us that the majority (76%) of solicitors felt that stress/mental wellbeing in the legal profession is a major issue, with over a third of solicitors experiencing stress at work.

So, what’s the solution? Is flexible working a viable panacea for these challenges?

 

“Agility” and the ability to combat stress

 

Being “agile” is becoming a key factor in attracting and retaining law firm talent. The up-and-coming generations in particular, are likely to expect more from the culture of their employer.

This is because the culture of their generation is fundamentally different. They are taught mindfulness practices, they have yoga, and massages, happening on their workplace premises, during work time. They are taught to speak about how they feel and told to speak up if they disagree with structures, management and how things are run. To the younger generations, this isn’t new fangled corporate culture at play, it’s their way of life.

Mental wellbeing has also increasingly become a talking point across industries, with charities reporting a rise in calls from lawyers to their support services.

In its latest annual report, the charity LawCare, which runs a helpline and peer support service, stated that the number of legal professionals contacting it for emotional support continues to rise year on year, with a total of 677 people seeking help in 2019, up 8% on 2018.

“The majority — 67% — of callers to the helpline were women last year, while 53% of all callers were either trainees or pupils, or had been qualified for less than five years.

The most common reasons for calls were lawyers looking for help with stress (26%), and depression (12%) and bullying (12%).” (

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About the author:

Amy leads the content marketing strategy for LexisNexis UK, writing thought leadership and product content for marketing campaigns, insight reports and legal industry magazines. She is an established writer and researcher, having contributed in national publications, such as City A.M. and Financial IT. She is also one of the writers and digital editors of LexisNexis' insights blogs, the Future of Law and the In-house blog.