Ending stigma

Law Society of Ireland launches Professional Wellbeing Project for solicitors.

With 57% of solicitors surveyed reporting very high or extreme levels of stress, the Law Society of Ireland is launching a new initiative designed to promote wellbeing in the solicitors’ profession in Ireland.

The Law Society of Ireland commissioned independent research into the wellbeing of solicitors, which was conducted by Psychology at Work in 2018. The Law Society’s Professional Wellbeing Project is being launched today (Monday 7 October 2019) to address the needs identified. It provides practical supports, education and guidance across three pillars: workplace culture, resilience and wellbeing, and emotional and psychological health.

“The Law Society’s Professional Wellbeing Project has been designed to address the specific issues our members have told us they experience in the course of their work as solicitors,” said Teri Kelly, Law Society Director of Representation and Member Services. “It aims to address the current stigma attached to talking about and seeking help for stress and mental health issues.”

“The evidence shows that this is a global problem; legal professions around the world experience high levels of stress that negatively affect mental health and wellbeing.”

Key findings

The Irish research revealed that:

  • 57% of solicitors frequently experience very high or extreme levels of stress,
  • Irish solicitors have a lower wellbeing score than the lowest average population score in the EU, and
  • The main stressors are large workloads, high client expectations, and not having enough time to complete their work, among other findings.

“It’s important to note these findings are considered a likely, but not definitive, representation of the membership as a whole,” explains Ms Kelly. “However, paired with the international research available and some direct feedback from members, we have a strong basis for developing a proactive programme to promote wellbeing among our members.”

Read more about the research findings in the article “Sunshine on a Rainy Day” and about the supports being implemented in the article “Society Reaches Out To Stressed Solicitors”. Both articles are featured in the October 2019 Law Society Gazette.

Vicarious trauma

Concerns also exist for practitioners who are exposed to distressing material and situations in the course of their work. “We know that criminal law and family law practitioners in particular can be exposed to distressing materials, cases and situations in the course of their work. It’s not hard to imagine the negative impact this can have on solicitors’ wellbeing,” says Teri Kelly.

“US research even suggests that lawyers may experience significantly higher levels of vicarious trauma and burn-out than US mental health clinicians and social service workers.”

Tools and supports

Some of the key tools and supports that solicitors will be able to access as part of the Law Society’s Professional Wellbeing Project include:

  • Online wellbeing hub
  • Regular seminars and Continuous Professional Development training on these issues,
  • Mental health and wellbeing signposts to confidential, independent services and resources where members can seek help and advice,
  • An opt-in Employee Assistance Programme, which will be of particular help to sole practitioners and solicitors in smaller firms,
  • An annual conference on the business of wellbeing,
  • Best practice guidelines for firms on wellbeing,
  • A Peer Support Network pilot, and
  • Collaborations with mental health and wellbeing organisations.

“We know that our members want to be there for each other in a real and effective way: solicitors want to know more about how to support colleagues who are experiencing distress or stress.”

“The Professional Wellbeing Project, along with the existing supports already in place for trainee solicitors via the Law School Psychological Services, aims to meet these needs in an effective, modern and evolving way.”

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