A practising lawyer turned author is warning law firms to make wellbeing a priority as droves of legal staff leave the profession.
With more than 20 years’ experience in law and witnessing the workloads increase, she’s calling for wellbeing to take priority to avoid even more lawyers leaving the vocation.
Hannah realised the impact of chronic stress on her career, health and life and she became an avid researcher into the mental health of lawyers.
A Law Society poll from 2015 found that 95 per cent of legal workers surveyed, suffering from moderate to severe work-related stress. At that time law was also considered to be one of the most stressful professions, above the emergency services and armed forces.
Hannah believes one reason for high-stress levels in the industry is the pressure on staff to carry out billing work whilst meeting chargeable hours targets, and having to deal with utilisation figures and write-off explanations.
She said: “The problem with lots of lawyers is that they can’t switch off – the work is never done.
“Character traits that tend to bring us into law – the ones law firms even hire for – include people pleasing, being a yes person, perfectionist tendencies and similar.
“These sorts of personalities have a higher likelihood of succumbing to stress and ultimately burnout. Especially combined with a profession who saw finishing on time, taking your holidays, resting and recuperating, as laziness or a demonstration of a lack of commitment.”
She also blames those in senior management not setting an example to junior staff, causing a copycat effect, of not taking time out as necessary and prioritising billing and client work.
“We need to start investing in our people and understanding what support they need, then providing it,” Hannah said. “Not only is it the right thing to do, to look after our people, but happy lawyers are more productive lawyers and even provide a better customer service.”