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Stress Levels of Young Lawyers Hit Red Line Alert Level

stress levels of young lawyers

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Stress and over work at record level for junior lawyers in the UK, a new survey show.

A survey shows that over 90 per cent of young lawyers say they are under stress or pressure from work and more than half of those surveyed said they feel unable to work either regularly or occasionally as a result of work pressure.

The survey was conducted by the Law Society’s Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) and published at the JLD conference last week.  The survey covered law students, young lawyers, paralegals and others in both England and Wales, showing that 26 per cent of those surveyed found “severe” or “extreme” stress.

Stress in the legal profession has been a major issue for many years, as we’ve reported previously.

The issues of mental wellbeing in the profession was a main theme of the conference with expert Chetna Bhatt commenting that dealing with stress involved navigating their own state of mind.  As the Law Gazette reported:

‘Just because we have negative thoughts in our mind does not mean they are true,’ she said.

‘Thoughts, including negative ones, will always come and go, but it will only become an issue if we hang on to them.’

Ann Charlton, coordinator for England and Wales at LawCare, gave a sobering account of some of the problems highlighted by callers to the charity’s anonymous support line.

Calls to the organisation are increasing – particularly from men – with bullying and depression high on the list of problems.

‘The pressure is really out there,’ said Charlton, adding that it is important to ‘acknowledge it and recognise it’.

Not surprisingly, the main cause of stress is the level of work expected to be undertaken by the junior lawyers (64.8 per cent) and lack of support comprising over 48 per cent of the reason for the stress levels.

But the firms themselves are not doing enough, according to the survey, which shows that 49.5 per cent of stress is the result of ineffective management.

Almost 74 per cent of respondents considered that their organisation could do more to provide help or guidance so far as stress issues are concerned.

The suggestion was that there could be more programmes in place, including training and guidance, quite apart from less work.  However another feature was the attitude of senior lawyers that they had been through the mill and so should they.

Issues of stress in law, including drug and drinking dependency, suicide and depression have all been central issues upon which many firms have focused, along with law schools and law advisers and consultants.  A recent story of a Reed Smith lawyer’s suicide is the sort of tragedy that exemplifies some of the most serious issues facing lawyers in a fast-paced, high pressure world.

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  1. There are two further issues. First, is that resilience is gained over time in practice; and secondly, lawyer and law society discrimination for those who do fall foul to depressive or other illness. The extent of discrimination is a key hire issue and lawyer have a propensity to it. . One senior lawyer in Blenheim said he would not have hired X if he knew his wife had a bi polar disorder, which was not in fact an issue. That gives a perfect snapshot of lawyer bigotry in this area. Too much openness- and don’;t have an expectation other lawyers will have the humanity to understand- could well lead to the drafting gate of no hire and exit. Having sat through a NSC hearing, I came to the view that female partners are no different from their male counterparts in the discrimination game.

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