LawCare has seen a 24% increase in the number of legal professionals contacting it for support so far this year, showing that employers need “to do more to create mentally healthy workplaces”.
The mental health charity highlighted the figure for the first eight months of 2023 to mark World Mental Health Day today and the launch of new guidance for employers on protecting mental health in legal workplaces.
It said: “Legal professionals are overwhelmed and stressed, and these mental health concerns can be exacerbated or caused by the work environment.
“These are tough times for legal professionals adjusting to a post-pandemic world, against a backdrop of global financial crisis, with heavy workloads, unrealistic targets and a workplace culture where there is still stigma about being open and honest about your mental health.
“The increased demand for support from LawCare reflects the increasing pressures of day-to-day life in the law and the lack of protection of mental health in the legal workplace.”
LawCare said people have “the right to have their mental health protected in the legal workplace”.
The guidance encourages employers to reduce the risks legal professionals face to their mental health at work, also known as ‘psychosocial risks’, rather than waiting until they occur.
LawCare chief executive Elizabeth Rimmer said: “The tendency in legal workplaces is to respond to colleagues with work-related mental health concerns once a problem has arisen. The goal should be to prevent these developing in the first place.
“Workplaces need to move from a support-based approach to mental health to a risk-based approach.
“The legal workplace is characterised by inherent psychosocial risks to mental health – working long hours, poor work life balance, meeting the expectations of demanding clients, heavy caseloads, the pressure of deadlines and billing targets, whilst maintaining high standards of ethical and professional conduct.
“Employers need to accept there are risks to mental health in the accepted working practices in law and take steps to mitigate, modify or remove these risks. Employers should focus on how the workplace can protect the mental health of their people, not undermine it.”