Legal professionals facing a battle with stress

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Posted: 27th November 2023 by
Courtney Evans
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As many as 37% of lawyers in the UK consider leaving their professions due to the impact it has on their mental health.

The Washington Post has noted that being a Lawyer is the most stressful occupation in the US. The LSWU found that 71% of legal workers agreed that their work had a negative impact on their mental health.

The legal industry is known for its intensity and high demand, and often, those in the workforce are under a lot of strain. The lack of a work/life balance accounts for the majority of reasons for lawyers or legal professionals battling stress, as this impacts their mental well-being.

Factors inducing stress

  1. The workload given to legal professionals reaches a staggering volume, which is more than enough to overwhelm anyone. The workload does not only include the number of cases a lawyer receives but also collecting evidence, writing up reports, organising files and much more. The pressure to complete all tasks within a short period of time is intense for all levels within law.
  2. Strict deadlines intensify the workload enormously and add a time limit on getting them done. With strict deadlines comes working overtime to get things done on time to avoid any consequences from clients or colleagues.
  3. Dealing with difficult clients can make a busy day even more tiresome. Anyone working with customers will know how the public can make the work day even more challenging. Within the law industry, these clients usually pay a high bill and have high expectations, which doesn't allow for much flexibility. Legal professionals have to adapt to clients in a proficient way whilst adhering to their job role.
  4. Working overtime as a legal professional is often presumed to be a part of the job role for law firms. Legatics, found in a survey that most lawyers spend between 1-10 hours of overtime per week. This leaves people feeling tied to their desks with little to no time to decompress or unwind.
  5. The billable hours expected to be completed can account for all the overtime. A high percentage of law firms will have targets of 6 hours a day of recorded work for each lawyer. This only accounts for billable hours and not for extra work outside of this that is also mandatory. This also leaves no room for any annual leave or sick days to be taken, adding on to the pressure to always be at work. Larger firms have even higher targets of 12 hours a day becoming the average; it is no wonder that the legal profession has such a high rate of burnout and stress.

There is a staggering number of lawyers who feel their job negatively impacts their mental and physical health leading them to consider their future in the industry. Many feel a lack of support from their firm being unable to seek support. With no one to support them in times of stress and no way to alleviate any anxieties this often leads to burnout with over 9 in 10 lawyers experiencing this during their career.

The Great Resignation

Pinsent Masons report that as many as 37% of lawyers in the UK are considering leaving their professions due to the impact it has on their mental health.

Specifically, since the pandemic hit, work life has changed drastically for many, and a shift in people's priorities has occurred. Many people realised the importance of their personal lives and how working from home gives them more time with their family. The great resignation refers to the mass of employees leaving a job where they were requested to return to the office. This has seeped into the legal industry as reducing their stress levels and increasing job flexibility is tempting more and more people. The Singapore Law Society conducted a study including international lawyers where 54% of them stated they were likely to leave their workplace by 2027, with over half of them likely to leave the profession altogether.

Many young lawyers are still hungry for success, allowing for new talent to be recruited; however, the problem occurs in keeping these people in the firm. Many learn that the job was not what they expected, highlighting the importance of managing staff expectations. BCL legal reports that newly recruited lawyers join a company or firm and often leave within their first 6 months.

The choice between a successful career and their family/social lives is leaving the legal profession on the losing end. The University of Liverpool found in their study that young fathers felt the need to fabricate meetings in order to perform their childcare duties. There is a fear within young parents in the legal industry, that If they have involvement in the day-to-day childcare, they could be seen as less committed to their work. The battle to balance home life and the high demands of the job are leading to many professionals leaving the industry.

There is an international crisis for the legal industry, and the stress caused by the job is unsustainable for many in the long run. The options can feel limited as the choice between their career progression or mental well-being can only mean a ticking timebomb on how much one can handle.

About the Author

Courtney Evans
Courtney studied English Literature and Creative Writing at University and is the Editorial Assistant for Lawyer Monthly, Finance Monthly and CEO Today writing articles for all three publications. Courtney is an experienced writer who enjoys researching for the articles. When she’s not working, Courtney can be found planning her next budget friendly trip and trying to tick off new experiences on her ever-growing bucket list.
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