The number of lawyers talking to wellbeing charity LawCare about problems of workplace bullying and harassment more than doubled last year, according to its annual impact report.
Elizabeth Rimmer, chief executive of LawCare, described 2023 as “one of our busiest years ever”, second only to 2020, with emotional support provided to 633 lawyers, a 14% rise on the year before.
The proportion of LawCare callers saying that workplace bullying, harassment, or discrimination was their main reason for seeking support almost doubled to 14%.
Stress remained the biggest single reason to get in touch, with 22% of lawyers mentioning it – the same proportion as last year.
Anxiety was almost unchanged on 12%, but there was a big fall in those calling with concerns about their careers, from 22% to 13%.
Ms Rimmer commented: “I would urge individuals and organisations to start taking active steps to create working environments which better protect mental health and where bullying and harassment are not tolerated.
“We need to drive a collective responsibility in our sector to tackle bullying and harassment by identifying the workplace factors that can lead to it, such as low psychological safety and managers with little or no training and support, and taking positive action to address these.”
Almost three quarters of callers (72%) were female. Two-thirds were White, and 24% Asian, including those from Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Chinese backgrounds. Black lawyers made up 5% of callers, with a similar percentage coming from mixed backgrounds.
LawCare said it strengthened its engagement with regulatory bodies across the UK last year, through a series of roundtables.
Practical guides were provided for managers about anxiety, bullying and creating healthy workplaces.
The charity’s reverse mentoring programme, which saw aspiring lawyers, trainees and junior lawyers mentor those responsible for recruitment and organisational wellbeing within their law firms, came to an end last year.
LawCare said it was putting together a toolkit on reverse mentoring which would be available mid-2024.
A team of 142 volunteers played a “crucial role” in running its helpline, email support, and live webchat, and spent 206 hours in providing support through its helpline.
The charity raised a total of £379,625 in donations last year, including £9,400 from its Big Give Christmas Challenge.
A majority of LawCare’s income (58%) was spent on providing direct mental health support, with the rest going on education, training and information.
Ms Rimmer added: “We need to continue to challenge the stigma that prevents many still from speaking up about their mental health and seeking support. Each single act of storytelling, awareness raising, or advocacy contributes to transforming legal culture.
“You may never know the impact of your voice – you may give someone the confidence to seek help, provide them with the comfort of feeling less alone, or enable them to speak up too.”