Lawyers questioning whether they should continue working in the law have become a major feature of calls to mental wellbeing charity LawCare, its annual impact report has shown.
Nearly a quarter (22%) of people contacting LawCare for support were primarily concerned about their career in the law, compared to just 8% the previous year.
This was the same proportion as those seeking help because of stress and ahead of anxiety (12%) and depression (8%).
Notably, 7.5% of callers mentioned that they were experiencing a lack of supervision in addition to the primary problem about which they called.
Some 60% of those who contacted LawCare were trainees/pupils or had been qualified for fewer than five years.
“This suggests that junior legal professionals are still not getting the emotional support they need in their workplace,” the charity said.
Chief executive Elizabeth Rimmer added: “This willingness to question their life in the law may be partly a response to the pandemic: legal professionals could be reflecting on what they want from life and work and be less willing to stay in careers or workplaces that don’t meet their needs and expectations and could be undermining their mental health.
“There were a wide range of career concerns raised, from struggles with training to becoming a lawyer to wanting to retire early. We are also hearing from people who don’t see law as a lifelong career.
“We anticipate that in 2023 the number of people contacting us with career concerns may grow as the tough economic climate takes its toll.”
LawCare was contacted 849 times in 2022 – a slight increase from 2021 – and provided 583 people with emotional support. The proportion of male callers grew by three percentage points to 33%.
The service spent 250 hours talking to callers on the phone, an average of 26 minutes per call, although the longest lasted 93 minutes.
The impact report argued that the post-pandemic period offered an opportunity like none before “to start taking real steps to change the way we work in law, to create a culture that is sustainable, that both welcomes and retains a diverse range of people, is more human and puts its greatest asset – its people – first”.
In the wake of its Life in the Law survey in 2021, LawCare has embarked on a new strategy, a key focus of which is “to build a collective responsibility across the legal community that encourages individuals, legal practices, professional bodies, regulators and legal educators to step up and take action to address the systemic working practices in law that undermine mental wellbeing”.
The report said that, this year, it will launch a reverse mentoring pilot in conjunction with Rachael O’Connor, an academic from Leeds University.
LawCare received total funding of £482,176 in 2022, from both its legal institutional supporters in England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, as well as money raised by a variety of events, such as £23,000 from the Law Society presidential gala dinner, £3,000 from the Institute of Paralegal awards, £10,000 from the Addleshaw Goddard Foundation and £6,000 from the R Costings golf day.
LawCare spent 91p of every pound on providing support, prevention and education.