A new report from the International Bar Association (IBA) has identified what it describes as “worrying” mental-wellbeing trends across the legal profession.
Mental Wellbeing in the Legal Profession: A Global Study also provides ten principles for legal workplaces and organisations to help address what it sees as a “crisis”.
Launched this week as part of the IBA’s Global Showcase week of virtual sessions, the report draws on data collected from a global survey of almost 3,500 legal professionals, and more than 180 legal organisations.
The IBA says that the findings confirmed that the mental wellbeing of legal professionals was a cause for global concern.
The survey also found that problems linked to wellbeing had a disproportionate impact on women, young people, those who identified as an ethnic minority, and those with disabilities.
Stigma was identified as a problem, with just over 40% of respondents saying that they would not discuss issues with their employer for fear of damaging their career.
Among the principles set out by the IBA is a call for law firms to adopt a “collaborative” mental-wellbeing policy, and undertake regular assessment of their employees’ mental wellbeing.
The global organisation also urges the profession to address “systemic problems” – including poor or non-existent managerial training, bullying, harassment, sexism and racism, and a culture of unsustainable working hours.
The IBA also calls on organisations to prioritise mental wellbeing – pointing out that lawyers who are struggling may not be able to serve clients to the best of their ability.
"The difficulties experienced by specific groups – including younger, female, ethnic minority, and legal professionals with disabilities – must be better understood and acknowledged by the legal community,” it adds.
IBA president Sternford Moyo commented: “In a developing and demanding global culture, where the delineation between work and other areas of life is increasingly blurred, this report demonstrates that we can, with the right tools and emphasis, recalibrate and find better balance.”