Let’s talk about anxiety in the legal profession

Anxiety in the legal profession

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year the focus is on anxiety. According to LawCare – the mental health and wellbeing charity for legal professionals, anxiety is one of the top three reasons people working in the law reached out to LawCare for support in 2022.

LawCare’s Life in the law study (2021) also showed that 69% of participants said they had experienced mental ill-health over the preceding 12 months, and of those 60.7% said they had experienced anxiety either often, very often, or all of the time.

“Many legal professionals experience anxiety. They may worry that they are not cut out for the law, have sleepless nights about a mistake they have made, or be fearful of not meeting targets. The perfectionist personality of legal professionals, the high-performance culture in law, and a lack of effective management support can make legal professionals prone to anxiety.”
Elizabeth Rimmer

CEO, LawCare

What is anxiety?​

According to Angus Lyon, LawCare volunteer and former solicitor anxiety describes feelings of unease, worry and fear. It incorporates both the emotions and the physical sensations you might experience when you are worried or nervous about something. If your feelings of anxiety are very strong, or last for a long time, it can be overwhelming.

Yet, as he points out anxiety is good for us.

It warns and protects us from real danger. The problems come when it’s imagined or exaggerated or unrealistic.

He goes on to explain that anxiety is as old as mankind. Around 2,500 years ago Hippocrates, then later on Cicero and Seneca and others were identifying and distinguishing forms of anxiety. And they developed CBT-type remedies for it.

“Men are lords in riches … and yet, within the home, they still have the anxious heart which vexes life unpausingly with torments of the mind”, wrote Epicurius. Times may change but the human condition remains a constant. Thoughts and emotions and bodily responses can knot us up inside and money is a poor medicine.

How can you manage anxiety?

According to LawCare here are some ways you can manage anxiety as a legal professional:

• Focus on the here and now – what is actually happening in this moment. Is there another perspective?
• Talk to people about your feelings – ask them for feedback.
• Keep a list or folder of your achievements and look at it when you need to.
• Talk to yourself as you would a friend.
• Distract yourself from your thoughts – read a book, take some exercise, see a friend, do something you enjoy.

LawCare also provide comprehensive resources on how to deal with anxiety.

Members of our Obelisk community who balance their work as lawyers alongside running their own well-being practices, also share their advice and practical tips for looking after your well-being as lawyers in 10 top tips here.

How can you help those around you?

Working in the legal sector can be stressful and demanding, and it’s not uncommon for legal professionals to experience anxiety as a result. The focus on anxiety for Mental Health Awareness week this year, presents a chance for the legal community to talk about the common experience of anxiety so that we can all recognise the signs and know where to turn to for support.

When speaking to colleagues and peers, take time to notice any emotions or behaviours that appear out of the norm for example excessive worry, restlessness, irritability or frequent mood swings. Be available to listen ad be attentive if they want to talk and encourage trust to be able to talk about anxiety without judgement.

Also consider making the time to equip yourself to be able to support others.

• LawCare provides guidance on ways to support a colleague experiencing anxiety, along with other organisations such as Mind and The Mental Health Foundation.

Fit for Law is a free online courses for legal professionals which promote psychologically and emotionally healthier ways of working in the law.

“A supportive workplace where information about anxiety is visible and talked about will enable colleagues with anxiety to feel psychologically safe to seek support.”
Elizabeth Rimmer

CEO, LawCare

Getting extra help

If you feel you need extra support, LawCare also provide a peer support programme for legal professionals.

With over 90 peer advisors available, who have all worked in the law previously, they are here for you. Learn more on how peer support can help you, or becoming a peer supporter.

Support helpline: 0800 279 6888

Email support: [email protected]

Online chat and other resources: www.lawcare.org.uk

About the LawCare’s peer support

Peer supporter’s at LawCare offer support, encouragement and mentoring, usually over two to three phone calls, but it can be less or more than this. Issues they can help with include: worries about training, difficult relationships at work, career progression, facing disciplinary, workload and more.

Hear how peer supports Jade Williams-Adedeji and Steven Clarke are helping those working in the legal profession.

How Obelisk is making a difference

Here at Obelisk Support, we take pride in our innovative approach to championing new ways of working. With the vision to make legal work more inclusive and allow accomplished legal professionals to thrive throughout their career – Obelisk Support created a different model to deliver legal work, connecting clients with skilled consultants who work flexibly. This required a change of mind set and approach, which is what Obelisk has successfully focused on, pioneering flexible and remote working arrangements long before they were mainstream. Today, the model includes all lawyers who want to work differently, with over 2,000 consultants now registered.

Obelisk Support is founded on and continues to honour the principle of #HumanFirst. We set ourselves apart through our commitment to putting people at the heart of legal services and focusing on what our clients and consultants really need to succeed. Today we continue to be a vocal champion of cultural change in the legal profession to build a future-facing profession where all lawyers have true equality of both opportunity and outcome.

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