Conveyancers must stop work “taking over your life”

Lati: It’s about managing the stress

Stressed conveyancers must learn about boundaries, tell their managers what they are capable of doing and avoid a situation where work “takes over your life”, the head of residential property at a London law firm has said.

Maria Lati said work-related stress had given her headaches “a lot of the time” and stomach pains, and made her “dread” going into the office until she prioritised her health.

She went on: “There is always an element of stress. We can’t be completely stress-free – it’s about managing the stress.”

Ms Lati, partner and head of residential property at south-east London firm Grant Saw, said stress wasn’t “always bad” if it was about “learning and growing” as opposed to “negative stress”.

Speaking in a panel discussion on wellbeing at the Bold Legal Group Conveyancing Conference in London last week, Ms Lati described in detail how stress had left her feeling “irritable, angry, impatient” and “overwhelmed”. Not able to “think clearly” meant that work took a lot longer than it should do.

She said a chance meeting with a lifestyle coach at a local networking event enabled her to turn the situation around and follow a programme which “prioritised my health and not my work”.

Ms Lati said conveyancers “need boundaries” and should not be “opening more files when you have a lot of work anyway”. Instead, they should “stress to line managers what they are capable of doing”.

She said conveyancers should be “self-aware” and there were times when it was necessary to “move away from your desk and breathe”.

Exercise was also “brilliant” as a way to avoid a situation where “work takes over your life”.

She added: “The opposite of stress is kindness. Be kind to yourself. As professionals, we should be kinder to each other.”

Lloyd Davies, managing director of Newport law firm Convey Law and chair of the Conveyancing Foundation, said: “We’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t want to be on the frontline any more and have any client interaction.”

Mr Davies said that in the foundation’s Wellbeing at Work  survey of around 600 property professionals, 68% of conveyancers described themselves as being stressed a majority of the time, with it more likely to be a problem for staff based in the office, rather than at home.

He disagreed with the approach that “everyone must be in the office”, but acknowledged that, when people were working remotely, it was “difficult to create that camaraderie that was so natural in the office”.

When conveyancers were asked in the survey how law firms could reduce stress, 62% said their firms should recruit more staff, while 38% said they should reduce the volume of work.

Asked what would make things better in the workplace, the most popular response was good team work and a culture in which staff felt valued, followed by having less work and pressure, and after that by more flexibility to work at home.

Just over half of property professionals (52%) had access to a ‘mental health first-aider’ or free counselling service.

Elizabeth Rimmer, chief executive of legal health charity LawCare, said she had noticed since the pandemic that there had been a growth in the number of people who were “not sure if they want to work” in the legal sector.

It was “really important” that law firms got better at managing people. She said a LawCare survey had found that fewer than half of the managers in law firms had been trained in how to manage people.

This was in the context of the relatively new Solicitors Regulation Authority rule on treating staff with respect and guidance on having a good workplace culture.

“Healthy people in the workplace are more productive and your business will be more successful.”

    Readers Comments

  • Michael Robinson says:

    But employers need to know what’s reasonable for a conveyancer to deal with and restrict the workload accordingly. The best control function is to raise the fee.

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