The effects of furlough or lack of work in the past year has had a “devastating” impact on solicitors, with a record number turning to The Solicitors’ Charity for help, the organisation said today.
There was a significant increase in the number of younger solicitors seeking assistance, as well as those without health problems.
The charity is now launching a manifesto, ‘For the bounce back’ , to offer greater support to the profession in recovering from the impact of Covid.
The Solicitors’ Charity – which used to be called the Solicitors Benevolent Association – set aside £1m  at the start of the pandemic to meet extra demand.
In the end it made £1.1m in grants to 399 people during the year, a 203% increase on the previous 12 months.
Some 8% of recipients were 30 or under (compared to 4% in 2019) and 55% were aged 31 to 50 (41% the year before).
“A smaller proportion of people we supported reported having a chronic health condition or that they were living with a disability,” the charity said.
“This shift has been driven by requests for help from a large number of recently unemployed people or solicitors struggling to find enough work as a result of the pandemic.”
Solicitors who work for small firms and sole practitioners were hit hardest last year, making up of 71% of the fund’s beneficiaries.
“Solicitors admit they have struggled with day-to-day living during lockdown,” the charity continued. “Around half of respondents reported that they felt overworked, that the pandemic and furlough brought mental health issues and they found working from home with obstacles such as home schooling was stressful.”
There was “a significant shift” in numbers of support requests from ethnic minority communities. “This may suggest that this section of society has been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 and its fall out.”
The charity’s manifesto pledges to:
- Widen access to the charity to enable more people to benefit from available support. In addition to helping solicitors and their dependents deal with health or disability issues, or advancing age, the charity will also tackle the challenges of having reduced or no work.
- Expand options for professional wellbeing support, including career transition counselling, coaching and training and help with interview travel and practising certificate costs, work clothing and equipment.
- Investigate ways of reducing social isolation through subscriptions and facilitating membership of support and community groups.
- Look at how it can help with the costs of day-to-day living to support individual needs, both on a short-term basis to help stabilise situations, or longer-term as an ongoing, life-long commitment.
Chief executive Nick Gallagher said: “The Solicitors’ Charity has supported solicitors at times of need or crisis since 1858. Now, we are stepping up once again to help solicitors get back on track after Covid-19.
“The last year has been a real learning experience – we’ve listened to solicitors across the country in a range of practices and gained a greater understanding of how the profession has been impacted, what individuals really need and how they feel about the future.
“We’re on a clear mission to keep doing what we do best: to support our solicitors – and this has led to some significant changes in how we engage with them.”