A poll has found that nine in 10 lawyers have experienced stress or burnout at work – with more than a quarter suffering on a daily basis. The survey of more than 100 practising lawyers, conducted by YouGov this spring, appears to confirm that mental health and wellbeing have become the biggest issue facing the legal profession.
Almost two-thirds of lawyers feel their job has had a negative impact on their mental and physical health, but less than 25% feel supported by their firm when they are stressed or burnt out. More than half suggested that their firms need to offer more support.
The biggest issues contributing to stress are a high workload and the work done not being recognised – this was cited as the main reason for half of those who are considering their future.
The poll was commissioned by Legatics, developers of a legal transaction management platform, whose chief executive Anthony Seale was a lawyer before starting the business.
Seale said: ‘This survey confirms the scale of the talent retention problem in the legal profession, and highlights many of the problems my team and I saw as lawyers, such as overtime, lack of support, and mental health challenges, which all tend to culminate in burnout or even someone leaving the profession.
‘The pandemic has turned many people’s priorities around completely and changed our approach to work irreversibly. People are questioning what’s most important to them, and what they will and won’t put up with, and employers across all sectors are making changes to adapt in response.’
Respondents to the survey came from a variety of sectors, but were mostly from corporate, litigation and real estate law.
Many firms are already acting to address staff wellbeing and reduce the likelihood of burnout. Policies requiring emails to be turned off after a certain time, or sent on a time delay so they are received in the morning, are increasingly common. Top 50 firms Pinsent Masons and Addleshaw Goddard were among the firm to have founded the Mindful Business Charter, which encourages businesses to commit to making positive changes and eradicate negative working practices.
Lucy Shurwood, partner at Pinsent Masons, said: ‘As this report highlights, many lawyers continue to be affected by stress and burnout, but the days of accepting that stress and burnout are part of the job are gone, with firms taking proactive steps to support the wellbeing and mental health of their people.’