A senior lawyer who reached out to his firm for mental health support found himself ‘penalised, isolated and alone’ – and eventually resigned – according to a shocking report published by wellbeing charity LawCare.
Another male lawyer told a focus group organised by LawCare that he had been a consistently solid performer. However, he received little support from his manager or HR after he found himself struggling and needing time to recover. ‘Being open about his struggles and actively seeking help was held against him and resulted in him being dismissed six months later,’ the report states.
LawCare wanted to understand the mental health experiences of men in law after noticing that they accounted for only a third of callers to its helpline and a quarter of those who engaged with its ‘life in the law’ research.
Eight legal professionals took part in the focus group, during which ‘facetime culture’ was repeatedly mentioned. ‘From a junior lawyer perspective this can be particularly challenging, as you are keen to make a good impression and partners seem to value juniors being visibly present. There was also a sense that lawyers need to be contactable via their work phone 24/7 and this can have a detrimental impact on mental health,’ the report says.
Other pressures included high expectations and not being able to say ‘no’ to a client.
A junior lawyer had a positive experience with his career development partner, but he was aware of another partner at his firm who ‘speaks a good game’ regarding mental health ‘but simultaneously makes junior associates cry due to the work pressures they are placed under’.
Nick Bloy, founder of consultancy Wellbeing Republic, who hosted the discussion, said: ‘Men feel a palpable expectation that they should be strong, not display vulnerability, and be able to shoulder the burden of personal problems themselves without recourse to others. Working as a lawyer adds additional pressure to this sense of needing to appear perfect to the outside world. Generally, men often don’t have the emotional vocabulary to understand or express their experiences effectively and a lack of male role models in positions of responsibility in law, adds to that pressure to remain stoic.’
The report calls for change in the profession, such as a business model that focuses less on billable hours and financials, which can be harmful, and equal treatment in relation to parental leave.
LawCare chief executive Elizabeth Rimmer said the report’s recommendations highlight the need for a ‘joined up and concerted’ effort across the profession.
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