The Law Society of Ireland has a number of initiatives in place to support the wellbeing of the profession, including access to LawCare. For details, read our wellbeing statement.
The Law Society is aware that while working as a solicitor offers many rewards it can also be challenging. The Law Society aims to provide support to its members at all times but particularly during difficult and stressful periods in their careers.
Increased awareness and understanding of wellbeing issues will enable the profession to manage personal resources and maintain psychological fitness and health at work to successfully meet the challenges of professional life.
The Law Society provides leadership in relation to wellbeing, by encouraging discussion of the topic to help shift attitudes, proactively dismantle any perceived stigma and build understanding and acceptance of its importance.
This Wellbeing Statement aims to bring together all the initiatives currently in place within the Law Society to support the wellbeing of the profession, to consolidate existing activities and achieve additional progress.
To achieve this, the Society will continue to:
- Work with specialist professional support organisations such as LawCare, Consult a Colleague and the Solicitors Benevolent Association, who provide support to those struggling with wellbeing issues, life changes and everyday stresses and strains, inside and outside of work.
- Provide professional and personal support services to offer effective assistance.
- Develop educational resources to improve solicitors’ physical and mental health, emotional wellbeing and resilience to manage the pressures of practice.
- Provide the Student Development Service.
- Provide the Law School Counselling Service.
- Communicate through all the Society’s channels to raise awareness about wellbeing issues and to ensure that individuals know that support is available and feel comfortable accessing it.
Specialist professional support organisations
LawCare is the charity that supports and promotes mental health and wellbeing in the legal community throughout Ireland and the UK. They offer a free confidential service funded by the Law Society but completely independent of it.
LawCare’s mission is to help all branches of the legal community with personal or professional concerns that may be affecting their mental health and wellbeing. Support spans the entire legal life, from student to training through to practice and retirement.
Their staff and volunteers have experience of practising law and understand the legal environment. They can support with issues such as stress, depression or anxiety, and related emotional problems. Factsheets are available to download from the LawCare website.
LawCare provide regular updates and news stories via the Society’s communication channels. They mark calendar events like World Mental Health Day, to increase awareness of best practice in managing wellbeing in the workplace, including work-life balance. To keep up-to-date with LawCare’s latest news, follow LawCare on Twitter and Facebook. You can contact their free confidential helpline on 1800 991801 or visit the LawCare website.
Consult a Colleague Helpline
The Consult a Colleague Helpline is a free, confidential service for solicitors operating on a nationwide basis. The helpline was set up by the Dublin Solicitors Bar Association and is funded by the Law Society. It operates completely independently of the Society. Helpline volunteers are all experienced solicitors who can help colleagues with professional and personal issues. Callers can choose to remain anonymous throughout the call.
Typical professional issues that the Helpline can assist with include the running of a practice, finance and accounts, staff and HR issues, legal situations, and compliance issues. Personal issues might relate to bullying, harassment, inability to cope with work, and associated stress and depression. The Consult a Colleague website contains a full list of its volunteers and committee members. Callers to the Helpline (01 284 8484) will hear a recorded message with the contact details of the volunteers on call for that week. There are two solicitors on call at all times.
Solicitors’ Benevolent Association
The Solicitors’ Benevolent Association offers financial assistance to members or former members of the solicitors’ profession, their spouses, families and immediate dependents throughout the 32 counties. The Association relies on the support of its directors and Society members, not only for financial support but also to keep them in touch with people in need. All applications are dealt with in the strictest of confidence.
Applicants vary from elderly widows and widowers struggling on an inadequate fixed income to younger members with several dependent children. The Association has been helping solicitors and their families since 1863. They have available the part-time services of a professional social worker who, in appropriate cases, can advise on State entitlements, including sickness benefits, and who can deal with specific problems. Full details are in the Law Society’s Law Directory.
Provide professional and personal support services
Panel to Assist Solicitors in Difficulty
The Panel to Assist Solicitors in Difficulty with the Law Society assists solicitors with their initial response to the Society, following notice to the solicitor of a complaint or other difficulty in relation to their practice, although Panel solicitors often find that they are also asked to become involved later on in the regulatory process. Panel work within the ambit of the scheme itself is on a voluntary basis. However, if the solicitor in difficulty is taken on as a client later in the regulatory process, it would be presumed that a fee will be charged. Details of the Panel are available under the Guidance and Ethics Committee.
Guidance and Ethics Helpline
The Guidance and Ethics Helpline (01 672 4800) is operated by the Society’s Guidance and Ethics Committee. Solicitors who are concerned about their own position on any matter of conduct should not hesitate to contact the Secretary to the Committee at the Law Society for assistance and information about any relevant published material, including practice notes. Solicitors are then in a position to make an informed professional judgement on the particular matter.
The Society operates the Mentor Programme for Solicitors Setting up in Practice available to those who have recently set up in practice or who are thinking about setting up. The Programme can put them in touch with a more experienced practitioner who is willing to act as their mentor. Mentors give guidance on an informal and voluntary basis, once-off or over a long-term arrangement. Further information is available on the Sociey's website under Setting up in Practice.
The Society’s Younger Members Committee promotes the interests of members up to 15 years qualified. The Committee periodically holds seminars and events to support younger members. Contact can be made with the Committee through its Secretary Sinead Travers.
Develop educational resources
Law Society Professional Training in conjunction with the Law School Counselling Service has a suite of Professional Wellbeing seminars, workshops and events involving experts from both the professional fields of psychotherapy and psychology as well as the legal arena. These seminars and workshops are delivered nationwide and offer training for lawyers to help reduce the impact of psychological health issues, such as stress and anxiety, on professional life.
Drawing upon the latest psychological research and clinical practices these experiential events offer an excellent set of practical tools and techniques to sustain wellbeing, necessary to thrive in practice. This bespoke training is tailored to the various segments of the profession, for instance private practitioners and in-house solicitors.
Provide the Student Development Service
The Student Development Service (SDS) run by Emma Cooper, Student Advisor, aims to facilitate the educational, social, emotional and spiritual development of trainee solicitors. The following is a summary of the support provisions that SDS offer:
- Confidential 1:1 appointments with a Student Development Advisor - These appointments typically cover personal Issues (such as anxiety, stress, illness, bereavement etc.), study/course/exam issues and financial concerns.
- Disability Support - SDS organises the adapted exam/course arrangements available to students with disabilities and to those students who, through an accident or illness or other personal issues, may be considered eligible.
- Student Orientation - SDS organises a range of welcome events, tours, orientation lectures and tutorials etc., designed to help students transition into the Law School and create a positive environment in which to learn.
- Personal and Professional Seminars and Workshops - SDS organises a series of personal/professional development programmes and careers/networking events, delivered by Executive Coaches, Recruitment Specialists and both experienced and newly qualified members of the profession. The Pathways to Success programme for incoming PPCI students is a follow on from the Student Orientation tutorials, which aims to empower students and fast track their success from the outset of the course. Students are invited to attend interactive workshops, which focus on managing change, goal setting, forming positive habits, developing self-awareness, building resilience and self-confidence and creating a strategy to achieve their goals. Student feedback has reflected the positive difference that this programme has made, with many students reporting that they felt more optimistic about doing well.
- Exam and Study Management Seminars - SDS organises three Exam and Study Management Seminars facilitated jointly by the Deputy Director of Education, SDS, Course Managers, an External Examiner and past students. The seminars are designed to help students adjust to the Law School Learning Model and learn practical tips to support exam success.
- To help them manage their physical, mental and emotional energy, SDS also runs a programme of health and well-being courses such as: mindfulness, yoga, nutrition, stress management, work/life balance etc. Student feedback has shown these programmes to be helpful in developing stress management skills and promoting a positive mind-set/attitude.
- Volunteering Initiatives - SDS co-ordinates teams of PPC students to participate in various volunteering initiatives that enhance their personal and professional development. Approximately half of the student body participate in one or more projects.
- Mentor Programme - SDS co-ordinates a team of mentors who act as guides and sources of support to students during their professional training.
- Liaison between management and students - SDS participates in regular meetings between elected student representatives and management. These are important in terms of keeping in touch with students’ needs and their views of the professional training courses.
- Student Support Groups - Based on student demand, SDS organises various support groups, which would include for example bereavement, mature student and single parent support groups.
- Chaplaincy Service - Two chaplains serve the Blackhall Place community. They co-host the annual Christmas Carols service and are available to meet students in confidence.
Provide the Law School Counselling Service
The Law School Counselling Service is located in discrete and welcoming premises in the Education Centre’s Green Hall and is operated by a team of six fully qualified psychotherapists. The Service offers free professional counselling to trainee solicitors, with up to 30% of students availing of counselling during their attendance on Professional Practice Courses. This is proving an integral part of students’ professional development with participants citing that counselling in a professional educational context helps them to become confident, resilient and fully rounded professionals who are properly resourced to deal with the complexity of legal professional life.
The Law School Counselling Service also delivers an innovative module during PPC I and PPC II entitled Shrink Me: Psychology of a Solicitor. This is a series of lectures, theatre pieces and tutorials designed to introduce trainee solicitors to the connection between professional wellbeing and professional and personal success. The module is delivered by experienced Executive Coaches and Psychotherapists.
The Law Society has a host of communication channels which it uses to raise awareness about wellbeing issues and to ensure that members of the profession know that support is available and feel comfortable accessing it. Encouraging discussion of the topic will help to change attitudes, reduce stigma and build understanding and acceptance of the importance of good psychological health.
- The Gazette regularly features articles on wellbeing and mental health issues, as well as advertisements for the supports available.
- The Legal Member eZine regularly features wellbeing articles. Sent on a monthly basis to solicitor members it brings news and information directly to their screens in a brief and easily-digestible manner.
- The Law Society’s website features wellbeing information including contact details, which will be extended.
- The Law Society will continue to use its various Social Media Channels, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Instagram, to disseminate information on wellbeing issues, events and support organisations.
- The Law School News features Student Development Service updates, including articles on wellbeing and mental health issues.
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