For us here at Legal Geek, mental health is paramount. It’s a topic close to our hearts and has taken centre stage in past conferences, securing itself as a core part of what we do. For those in the legal profession, nurturing our mental well-being can slip down the priority list. Not only are our jobs demanding, but they can also eat away at our hours—and finding the time to rejuvenate or seek help can be challenging.
So, for Mental Health Awareness Week, we sat down with LawCare—a fantastic charity that aims to support those in the legal profession, from judges to barristers.
Gemma Matthews, Communications Manager at LawCare, gave invaluable insights into why mental health is so vital in the legal sector and how you can seek support and steps to better your mind in everyday life. Take it away, Gemma!
So, what is LawCare all about, and what kind of services do you offer?
Gemma: LawCare is a legal mental health charity that provides emotional support for anyone who works in the law—whether you’re a solicitor, trainee, judge or receptionist. We’ve been running for about 25 years, and we offer a range of services, including:
- A helpline that people can dial from Mon-Fri, 9-5:30 pm
- An online chat service that runs on Wednesdays
- Help and support via emails
That’s our core support service. We also offer a peer support service for those we think may need extra assistance over time. It works by connecting them with a peer supporter, and that’s always someone who is/has worked in the law and has gone through a similar experience.
Whether that’s a divorce, a disciplinary procedure or a stressful time at work, we’ll pair those in need with someone who can offer them mentorship and guidance. At LawCare, we’re all about stimulating conversation and creating change.
And breaking down the stigma?
Gemma: Exactly. When we first started in the 90s, no one was really talking about mental health, but now it’s something we can see people waking up to.
And not only do we want to support people, but we’re also keen on education and prevention. So on our website, we provide fact-sheets on various topics, and we also host training days to help facilitate this change.
When you’re a lawyer, your brain is your greatest asset. We’ve got to look after our own brains, as well as the people working for us. So we really want to see firms taking active steps to prioritise the well-being of their staff and generating the conversation. It’s so important.
Too right. And why do you think mental health is such a prevalent issue in the legal industry?
Gemma: While every job can be challenging, there are particular stressors about the law. Not only is it a very hierarchical culture, but the type of person who becomes a lawyer can have a specific mindset—they can be perfectionists and tend to overthink, for example.
Also, the nature of the law is that there’s a lot of conflict going on. There are two sides pitted against each other, and you’re dealing with other people’s problems. You’re looking for risks and scrutinising the details, and this can make the job very stressful.
What’s great about LawCare is that we’ve got about 100 volunteers who have all worked in the law. They understand what the environment is like, and that context is already there—so you don’t have to explain yourself.
Why is it important that people reach out to LawCare, should they need it?
Gemma: For many people, it’s just the fact of knowing that you’re not alone that goes a long way. By taking those small steps to reach out and listen to someone who knows how it feels can often make all the difference.
So, it’s important on a personal level. You’ve not to lose sight of when you’re making a living; you’re also making a life—some people care about you and rely on you, and work is not everything. You’ve got to look after your health; it’s really important.
It’s also crucial for the whole legal profession. Healthy justice needs healthy lawyers, and we need them to stay on the ball. LawCare isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s integral to have support for those in the industry. We need the UK’s justice system to function properly, and it won’t if its key players are on their knees with work.
Exactly. And finally, what are some of your top tips that people can implement into their daily routines to better their mental health?
Gemma: We would say stick to a routine and have a clear boundary between work and play—especially since we’re all working from home at the moment. You could do this by taking regular breaks, condensing work into manageable chunks and carving out time for hobbies or things you enjoy.
There’s also the basics, such as eating well, getting 8 hours of sleep, exercising and staying in contact with friends and family. It’s these small things that can make the biggest difference.
This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is all about the power of nature, so we’d like to see people get outside and be mindful. There’s so much evidence to support how nature can boost our mood, so we’d encourage you to go for a walk, look at the trees and be present in the moment!
LawCare is also taking over our Instagram for Mental Health Awareness Week. Be sure to check out @legal.geek for their tips, tricks and how to contact them for support.
LawCare is an independent charity providing free, confidential, emotional support to all legal professionals, support staff, and concerned family members. You can call the helpline on 0800 279 6888, email [email protected] or access online chat and other resources at www.lawcare.org.uk.