Law firm wellbeing definition from insurers and banks

Elaine Pasini

Elaine Pasini, Head of Communications, ILFM

The ILFM held its Spring Law Firm Management Online Forum on 23 April and our panel of speakers included Colin Taylor from Howden Group, Brian Rogers from Access Group, and Dave Weaver from NatWest. I chaired the event and angled some pertinent questions to them, receiving insightful answers.

The forum had the topic of risk, regulations, ethics and compliance in the legal profession.

Questions on key challenges and opportunities that law firm clients are facing and talking about were part of the discussion. The conversations kept coming back to risk management and wellbeing specifics and definitions. There’s never any point in having a Workplace Wellbeing Policy if there is no evidence to support that it’s in use and monitored. The charity, LawCare, says those in need of help and support are often calling because of workplace bullying.

David Weaver from NatWest bank said,

“Given the pressure many firms are under with regards to attracting and retaining talent, particularly in certain regions, a priority for many management teams has been culture, values and wellbeing.  In a similar way to existing or potential employees having high expectations when it comes to ESG credentials (and evidence of delivery against said credentials), individuals also have high expectations when it comes to wellbeing.

Wellbeing encompasses financial wellbeing, mental wellbeing and considerations such as flexible working arrangements. Firms are focussing on the overall employee proposition and are also looking at the clients they wish to be doing business with.”

Brian Rogers, from Access Group also commented,

“Senior managers must ensure they embed an effective wellbeing strategy and culture into their firms, and ensure they lead by example in relation to this, for example, personally operating a good work/life balance. Although the Solicitors Regulation Authority has introduced new wellbeing rules, managers of a well-run firm should not need rules to tell them to ‘do the right thing’ as they should always work with the mantra, ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’.

Successful firms don’t see making a profit as the “be all and end all”, and this will be understood by all those working in them leading to high morale, low staff turnover rates, and few, if any, grievances; these firms also have transparency at their heart leading to staff feeling engaged and understanding where their firm wants to go in the future. “

As consumers of law, whether that’s moving house, selling a business, employment law, divorce or needing private client help, we all want to trust the lawyers we instruct. We all have a mobile and can access reviews and social media with a simple click. If a law firm’s employees shout out about their workplace and look happy, and the reviews are great, this surely reflects on our response to choosing a practice?

Colin Taylor from Howden Insurance said that law firms that presented a professional and comprehensive wellbeing strategy to their insurers tended to have fewer claims, which in turn helps when it comes to assessing their next renewal.

Colin went on to say that insurers would prefer to know about any possible breaches, best to “fess up”, rather than the insurer finding out later; it shows transparency and due diligence. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it will lead to a claim or indeed impact a firm’s future claim; it’s just a heads-up and clarity check. If a firm does have a claim, insurers want to know what has been done to avoid a similar claim happening in the future. Fraud and deceit aside, responding in a renewal that the firm has “managed the fee earner out of the practice” is the wrong answer. This shows to the insurer that rather than looking at the culture to understand why the “fee earner or legal cashier” did what they did and work on internal communications to keep them in the team and support them, it just shows that the culture breeds negativity and fear within its workforce.

One of the latest stories of misconduct is of a conveyancing assistant who felt pressured by the client to get “urgent” work done and naively forged her line manager’s signature. She ended up with a £600 SRA fine, a section 43 order, a ban from working in a law firm for 2 years, and the SRA’s website publication of the offence. She said she forged the signature “due to the pressure of work and a heavy caseload”.  Read the SRA’s agreement and Legal Futures’ news story.

As it is wellbeing awareness week, it’s worth stepping back and looking at ourselves and those around us.

LawCare (open to all legal finance, compliance officers and practice managers too) had some worrying statistics from its 2023 report. It’s seen an increase in the number of people reaching out for mental health support, with a sharp rise in people getting in touch because of workplace bullying.

  • There was a 14% increase in the number of people contacting LawCare for mental health support.
  • There has been a 95% increase in the number of people saying that workplace bullying, harassment, or discrimination was their primary reason for seeking support from LawCare.

At the ILFM’s Legal Conference (finance, compliance & management) in the Law Society on Thursday 16 May, our guest of honour is Lee Castleton, a former sub postmaster and campaigner for justice. He will talk about ethics and self-regulation, which is pertinent to us all working in the legal profession.

Nothing is worth putting your wellbeing in jeopardy for, or the reputation of yourself or your firm because you feel under pressure or unsupported. If your firm doesn’t support you or you feel like you can’t talk to anyone about how you feel, do speak to us, if you’re an ILFM member, or reach out to LawCare, or look on MIND’s website.

You are not alone.


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