Over 70 per cent of lawyers risk their mental health over work
More than seven out of ten legal workers find that their job has a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing, according to new research.
A new report by the Legal Sector Workers United (LSWU), and reported by Legal Cheek, found that work was cited by almost 60 per cent of legal works as the biggest threat to their mental health.
Worryingly over half of the respondents in the survey admitted to being diagnosed with a condition while an even greater proportion, 69 per cent, agreed that they were struggling with poor mental health.
According to the LSWU, the main cause of this work-related deterioration in mental health seems to be material conditions in the workplace.
Around 300 legal workers from across divisions – including paralegals, solicitors, barristers, clerks, caseworkers and administration staff – took part in the survey.
Long hours and being overworked were the main causes behind legal workers’ decline in mental health, with 219 responses recording struggles relating to these.
Pay was also noted as a key issue by around 40 per cent of respondents, with a similar proportion saying they felt pressure to meet billable hours targets.
At the same time one in four law firms had no mental health support available for their staff, according to the LSWU. The majority, at 72 per cent, said they would not feel comfortable requesting time off for mental health reasons for fear of the impact to their career.
A separate survey of 1,713 lawyers by LawCare found that 69 per cent of participants had experienced mental ill-health in the 12 months prior to completing the 2020/21 survey.
Around ten per cent of participants reported sleeping for less than five hours per night with staff aged between 26 and 35 reporting the highest levels of burn out.
The news comes amid an increasingly crowded bidding war by City law firms for junior talent. Baker McKenzie is the latest firm to have joined the battle after announcing a salary hike for newly qualified lawyers to £105,000 earlier this week.
But the perks come with strings. In the case of associates at Reed Smith, a new salary band is only available if they hit a billable hours target of 1,700 in a year, with an even higher salary band available only to those to exceed 2,000 hours.
However, that might not be a stretch for some since a recent survey of 2,500 lawyers by Legal Cheek found trainees and junior associates are already working longer hours across the board.