Law Training Centre takes the mental and physical wellbeing of its learners seriously and is pleased to work with LawCare, the mental wellbeing charity for the legal profession to promote improving working culture and raising awareness of the mental health and wellbeing of legal professionals. We spoke with Elizabeth Rimmer, Chief Executive of LawCare to find out why it was established and how she believes we are starting to see a change from the traditional culture in law, to what we have today, and how things can improve further.
|Traditionally the culture in law is structured and hierarchical, with a strong emphasis on results at all costs. Long hours, heavy workloads, difficult relationships in the workplace are all common. This model in which legal services are delivered has not really altered for 70 years in many workplaces which can make cultural change difficult. When LawCare first began 25 years ago no one was talking about mental health and wellbeing as openly as we do today, certainly within the legal sector. The challenge now is to move from talk to action.
We are now starting to see a significant change in attitudes to workplace culture, particularly as the new generation of lawyers are simply not prepared to give their whole life to their profession no matter the cost. As a result, increasingly legal workplaces are encouraging people to be more open about their mental health and are more supportive of wellbeing.
When you look at what some workplaces are doing – regular supervision sessions with a psychologist for example, or moving to a four-day week, certainly that is very progressive, but in other places change has been slow. There is still much more work to be done by all of us.
What has prompted any change in culture in the legal profession?
There are numerous factors that have prompted change. I think generally as a society we are a lot more open about mental health and high profile people, the royal family for example, have been forthcoming in talking about their challenges. This can help pave the way for others to speak about their concerns.
There are now more women than men in the profession and in our experience, women are more likely to talk about any problems they are facing than men, so that may have had an impact. There’s still a long way to go in getting more men to seek support.
I also think another driver for change is that workplaces are recognising that mental wellbeing is important to their staff and that a positive culture in organisations is key for attracting and retaining people. Ignoring these issues in workplaces is no longer sustainable.
Why was LawCare established?
LawCare was originally called SolCare and was set up as a telephone helpline to help solicitors with alcohol addiction. It very quickly became apparent that the profession had other needs other than just alcohol addiction and we were soon dealing with a variety of other issues such as stress, depression, anxiety, workplace bullying and disciplinary matters.
Other professional bodies approached us to provide services for their members and by 2001 we changed our name to LawCare when the Bar Council arranged for barristers to be covered by LawCare’s services. We are now available to anyone working or training in the law, including support staff in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man. Our support spans the legal life from student to retirement.
Unlike other organisations, such as Samaritans, LawCare is not a crisis line, although people can contact us about a variety of issues that are worrying them from a bad day at work to something more serious. We are the only support service tailored to the legal profession, where you will be supported by someone who has worked, or currently works in the law. We understand life in the law and all its challenges.
In addition to our telephone helpline we also offer email and online chat support, we can offer one-to-one peer support, and we can fund counselling sessions in some cases. We also provide training and resources to the profession on mental health and wellbeing and advocate for change.
Building a better life in law
LawCare is hosting its inaugural online conference ‘Building a Better Life in the Law’ on 28 September 2022. The programme of plenaries, panel discussions, workshops and breakout sessions brings together all that LawCare has learned over its 25 year history as the mental wellbeing charity for the legal community. It also shares insights from its ground-breaking Life in the Law research undertaken during 2020/21.
Leaders across the profession who are pioneering new ways of working will share their experiences of improving the culture in law during three main tracks:
Law Training Centre is looking forward to attending the event. To register for the event yourself, please visit the conference website.