Why Mental Wellbeing Support Needs to Improve in the Legal Profession

What challenges do specialist legal advisers encounter?

At UKIM Occupational Health and Wellbeing, we understand that legal professionals encounter many challenges that can be harmful to their mental health. For barristers in particular, they can feel the immense weight on their shoulders both inside and outside the courtrooms.

One of the country’s top KCs shares why heavy workloads, lack of funding and a rise in evidence and paperwork has led to increased pressures and issues for barristers across the UK:

“Being a barrister consists of back-to-back trials, spending every evening preparing for the next day and for the next trial, as well as for the trial after that. Courts expect much more upfront paperwork these days and require far more issues to be set out in writing in advance. Sometimes judges ask for a complex document to be ready the next day with no regard for the barrister’s private and family life.

The cost of this is the absence of normal downtime, relaxation and leisure, and the price that the barrister’s family pays for their commitment to work. Too few take any time off; it can seem like an idle fantasy to do so. The absence of any free time from work can mean that anything going wrong in their private life can seem insurmountable, when in fact with time and perspective it is often a problem easily remedied. There can be a toxic cycle of too much work, too much stress, too little sleep and then an inability to relax when there is free time.

The idea of having bespoke occupational health and wellbeing support for barristers is very much welcome considering the noticeable lack of support currently.

The working environment now is in such a state, that anyone looking in from the outside would see that there are serious health risks to even the most stoical and resilient barristers. There is still too much of an attitude of soldiering on and a fear of asking for support. There should be no shame in seeking support for mental health problems brought on by a dysfunctional working environment.

Barristers can often be self-employed and do not have the benefit of occupational health services that exist in large employers. Any bespoke occupational health assistance is of huge importance to the wellbeing of this profession at a time when the working environment has never been more stressful.

With a lot of barristers being self-employed, or chambers being incredibly busy, there isn’t enough wellbeing support in place. As they grapple with excessive working hours and workloads, distressing cases as well as complex dilemmas and pressures, it’s imperative that we improve the mental wellbeing conditions and support available."

At UKIM Occupational Health and Wellbeing, we recognise these challenges and have created a bespoke Wellbeing in Legal Services solution to tackle these pressures and facilitate psychological safety in the sector