92% of lawyers have faced stress or burnout, study finds

Survey finds 92% of lawyers have experienced stress or burnout because of their job, with more than a 25% experiencing it daily

Legatics, developers of a legal transaction management platform, today announced the findings of a new survey conducted in collaboration with YouGov that reveals the impact stress, burnout and over work are having on the legal profession, and lawyers’ day-to-day lives in law firms and legal departments.

The survey of over 100 practicing UK lawyers found:

  • Over nine in ten lawyers experience stress or burnout at some point , with over a quarter experience it on a daily basis
  • Almost two thirds of lawyers feel that their job has had a negative impact on both their mental and physical health – the biggest impact is on their mental health
  • Less than 25% of lawyers feel supported by their firm when they are stressed or burned out
  • With more than half suggesting their firms need to offer more support
  • The issues contributing to feelings of dissatisfaction range from high workload and work not being recognised, as well as a lack of support
  • Most lawyers spend 1-10 hours overtime per week
  • A poor work/life balance is the biggest factor behind lawyers leaving the profession, with almost half reporting this as being the main reason they are considering their future
  • Automating administrative work is considered by lawyers to be the most impactful way that technology could help

Legatics’ senior leadership team contains several former lawyers, many of whom have insight into the challenges that are facing the legal profession and are highlighted in the survey. Anthony Seale, former lawyer and CEO of Legatics, explained:

“This survey confirms the scale of the talent retention problem in the legal profession, and highlights many of the problems my team and I saw as lawyers, such as overtime, lack of support, and mental health challenges, which all tend to culminate in burnout or even someone leaving the profession.

Tackling these challenges is more important than ever. The pandemic has turned many people’s priorities around completely and changed our approach to work irreversibly. People are questioning what’s most important to them, and what they will and won’t put up with, and employers across all sectors are making changes to adapt in response.

We believe that law firms want happy, healthy, and satisfied lawyers working for them and are keen to support them, enabling them to have a fulfilling career. As a company founded by and for lawyers, our team’s experience means we understand many of the problems lawyers face and how to address them, and that insight has been a core part of the founding mission of Legatics.”

Lucy Shurwood, Partner at Pinsent Masons, who are a founding member of the Mindful Business Charter – a practical framework which aims to combat stress and burnout – commented:

“As this report highlights, many lawyers continue to be affected by stress and burnout, but the days of accepting that stress and burnout are part of the job are gone, with firms taking proactive steps to support the wellbeing and mental health of their people.

At Pinsent Masons we’ve worked hard to collaborate with clients to embed the principles of the Mindful Business Charter – an initiative we founded alongside Barclays and Addleshaw Goddard to encourage businesses to commit to making changes that support the mental health and wellbeing of employees and eradicate negative working practices.”

Commitments under the charter include:

  • Ensuring that when team members take a holiday, where possible, there is no longer an expectation that they should be available to respond to work emails
  • Respect for core working hours and agile workers
  • Considering when meetings can be held by phone or video conference rather than in person
  • Avoiding over-use of email and copying people into emails they don’t need to receive

Pinsent Masons set out the steps that they have taken to incorporate these commitments into the firms’ practices:

  • Introduced protected time for the lunch hour and encouraged people to take walk/exercise/family time etc…
  • Introduced wellbeing conversations for everyone
  • Introduced shorter meeting times, so all meetings are now automatically 25 minutes or 50 minutes to make sure there is time between meetings
  • Introduce guidance that encourages colleagues to not send emails outside of core working hours

The firm went on to highlight the impact that these steps have had amongst colleagues:

“We have regular Mindful Business feedback sessions. These are led by senior partners who listen to feedback from colleagues at all levels of our business with a particular focus on the Mindful Business Charter principles. This feedback is analysed to assess our performance against the Charter and to identify any areas where we can improve our working practices further. Our 2021 feedback survey with colleagues showed:

– 82% of people answered strongly agree/ agree when asked if they felt they were treated with the appropriate level of respect and courtesy

– 77% of people answered strongly agree/ agree when asked if they felt they could work flexibly and control the methods by which they could attend meetings

– 79% of people answered strongly agree/ agree that they could communicate concerns about timescales/ deadlines when being instructed on a task.”

The 100+ respondents to the UK survey, which was conducted by YouGov in Spring 2022, were all practising lawyers. Areas of work varied, but most respondents worked in corporate, litigation and real estate law. Seale concluded:

“The message to employers is clear – it’s time to take notice of employee health, both physical and mental. If you are not supporting the well-being of your employees, you will see a real business impact on talent retention, and the ability of your teams to work effectively. For those that do, the opportunity to be a highly desirable place to work and attract top talent is huge. Firms need to prioritise providing the right tools, systems, and resources to support and improve their teams’ health and happiness and empower them to be the best lawyers they can be.”

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