Of course, stress is usually present for most people, whether they are asset managers or business leaders. And stress is to be expected – up to a certain level. Problems arise when stress becomes too much and when it is relentless. This is when stress leads to mental health issues that affect the bottom line, other colleagues, and ultimately the client. When it comes to widespread poor mental health, the company can expect a decline in productivity and billing, many more employees, and lower profits in the long run. Effective lawyers` wellness strategies help you manage the complexities of work and life in a healthier way. That`s why it`s important to change the industry-wide debate about lawyers` mental health, and lawyers deserve to feel more comfortable speaking out on these issues, and legal organizations should constantly look for better ways to care about the well-being of their constituents. As the saying goes, « prevention is better than cure. » Don`t wait until your employees are overworked to act. Make sure managers are aware of the warning signs of mental illness (as described above) and encourage them to prioritize their team`s mental health over increasing their billable hours.
When asked about factors that negatively affect their psychological well-being, 72% of respondents chose « always on call/cannot be disconnected », 59% chose « billable time pressure », 57% stressed « client requirements » and 55% chose « lack of sleep ». But the reported effects on mental health were much less clear. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said remote work increased mental health, while 35 percent said it decreased mental health and 27 percent reported no effect. When asked if hybrid or remote work environments increased or decreased the likelihood of burnout, 25% said an increase, 33% said a decrease, 25% said « stay the same » and 17% didn`t know. What can the legal community do to counter this increasing level of stress and prevent burnout? Never. The legal profession is notoriously demanding, as evidenced by the statistics of mental health lawyers. 93% of junior lawyers admit to feeling stressed at work, and one in four feel stressed on a daily basis. In this context, is it any wonder that more than two-thirds of lawyers have had mental health problems? People who were already experiencing a high incidence of mental health and substance abuse before the pandemic have been particularly hard hit over the past 18 months, including members of our legal community here in New York City and across the country. These wellness barometers apply to almost everyone, but they are especially important for lawyers. This is due to the alarming statistics mentioned at the beginning of this article. Many lawyers work in environments that make well-being difficult. For example, it`s hard to take care of yourself when you`re a lawyer to manage stress, stay positive, and take care of yourself, while you also need to help clients through the toughest times in their lives.
Not to mention, you can also work 60 to 80 hours a week to try to take care of your family. More than 3,400 respondents from law firms around the world explained the state of their mental health, their work environment, their perception of their colleagues, client expectations, and the impact of remote work, among others. Overall, in 2021, there was a slight decrease among those who reported anxiety (67%), depression (35%) and isolation (44%). There was also an increase in the number of people who believe their company provides a safe environment to raise mental health issues (45.4%). For these reasons, the mental health and well-being of lawyers, also known as legal wellness or lawyer well-being, must be a critical consideration for law firms, law schools, bar associations, and lawyers. And while there are many « wellness » resources and programs available online, many don`t focus on the unique challenges of the legal industry. Most of the available resources also tend to examine the legal welfare landscape as the crow flies. Lawyers work with extraordinary dedication and perform Herculean tasks for their clients. This can sometimes have negative mental health consequences in the legal profession. In fact, lawyers are perhaps even more likely than most to struggle with stress and mental health. The answer is: for many reasons. Among them are long-held beliefs that lawyers should simply « suck him up, » that getting help shows weakness, that asking for help could hurt his career, etc.
For those who have found that the flexibility of remote work alleviates stress levels, the prospect of being forced to return to old ways of working triggers real anxiety. It will be interesting to see how, in the months and years ahead, the widespread desire of business leaders to encourage (or impose) a return to power will interact with a heightened awareness of the responsibility to address mental health challenges.