British law firms could struggle to retain talent if they do not ease workloads that are pushing burnout rates higher, new research reveals.
Nearly two in three of UK legal professionals have experienced burnout as a result of their work despite the sector stepping mental health support, a new survey out earlier this week of more than 200 lawyers shows.
Intensifying stress levels risks incentivising lawyers to switch to a firm with a better work life balance, with nine-out-of-ten lawyers surveyed now saying a more manageable workload would be a top priority when looking for a new gig.
More than half (57 per cent) of those surveyed said swelling pipelines of casework was the main stressor in their work, the poll by Realm Recruit shows.
The boom has, however, ramped up work for lawyers. A labour shortage has forced those still in the sector to take on more cases.
Greater demand has prompted firms to step up mental health support to help staff deal with stress and fatigue.
In March, Los Angeles’ law firm Latham & Watkins hired two mental health counsellors to work in its London office, with a view to offering 24/7 access to therapy.
The survey showed more than half (58 per cent) of law firms now offer mental health first aiders to their staff, compared to 45 per cent in 2021.
The majority (54 per cent) of UK law firms now also offer free or subsidised access to a counsellor, compared to 47.5 per cent in 2021.
The prospect of a more manageable workload is now increasingly a draw for lawyers looking for new jobs, the research showed.
Notably, nine-out-of-ten (91 per cent) lawyers surveyed said that in looking for a new job, they would rank having a more manageable caseload as a top priority.
Just under two-thirds (62 per cent) put having a comfortable workload as a top priority in Realm’s 2021 poll of lawyers.
The research comes as UK law firms have faced staff shortages over the past two years as a result of a boom in legal work.