The legal field is often painted as tough, demanding and fast-paced; consequently, many legal professionals are viewed as robots. However, this persona sometimes comes at the price of mental illness.
A few months back I partook in a CPD segment that highlighted some mental health related issues faced by legal practitioners. Today I want to share their findings with you. However, before I begin I would like to state that not all legal environments are the same, rather this piece is based on what was discussed in the LSUC CPD segments and personal experiences.
As juniors enter the legal realm many are excited to start working and paying off their student debts. Since juniors have less exposure to the legal field than more seasoned legal practitioners, they can fall victim to the media perception of fancy looking law firms, glimmer of working downtown and finally entering the workforce. Unfortunately, many legal professionals face a different reality after beginning to work.
Working in the legal realm usually consists of minimal recognition of your hard work and barely any time to complete tasks. It is difficult to strike a balance between finishing the work you’re assigned to the best of your ability and meeting your deadlines. If you do meet your deadline, your work might be accepted and you then move on to the next task but if your task is not completed in time it seems like the firm is drowning in tsunami because YOU let them down. That kind of pressure often makes legal professionals question if they are “good enough” for the job and sometimes even the legal field in general. Does any of this sound familiar?
The CPD segment mentioned that many legal professionals feel overloaded with work. A study conducted by the Law Society of Canada (LSUC) reported as much as 82% of lawyers and paralegals felt stressed and burnt out. Also, a 2009 mental health study of the legal realm showed that 45-50% of legal practitioners reported anxiety and stress when going through family law and litigation matters. Hence it’s no wonder why so many legal professionals feel overwhelmed. If you thought you were alone, you’re not.
Furthermore, sole practitioners stated that they find it difficult to strike a healthy work-life balance as they do not have someone to look after their clients when on vacation; thus many sole practitioners choose not to go on vacation at all.
Many individuals avoid associating themselves with mental health due to self-stigma. Working in a field where everyone is supposed to be “strong” and “in control” can make it difficult to admit that you’re having trouble coping with your work environment especially if everyone else seems to be doing just fine. Consequently, many individuals never seek the help they need. Most law firms offer mental health benefits for employees but employees are scared to use the benefits as they fear their colleagues may judge them if they found out. As a result, some individuals turn to substance abuse to help cope with the issue.
Now that the issues have been identified, TSP will outline some coping mechanisms to help all legal practitioners. Click on the link to read more.
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Points of Discussion:
1. How many of you (legal practitioners) can relate to these statistics and findings?
2. Are you surprised by the statistics discussed? (All readers)
Leave your thoughts in the comments.