Why those working in law need psychological safety


A recent report shows that those working in certain areas of law have low mental wellbeing

There are lots of branches of careers within law, all equally hard and competitive in their own way. However, according to The Bar Council’s latest wellbeing report, it seems to be those working in criminal law with the lowest wellbeing and mental health.

Why might this be the case? Heavy workloads and emotionally distressing cases. One of the UK’s top KCs shares how the pressures affect criminal barristers…

“Juniors are working back-to-back in 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. This can massively add to pressure and time poverty because most juniors are working flat out in trials every day. Sometimes barristers go from one distressing case to the next with no downtime, having worked every evening and every weekend. 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.”

It’s not only intense and extensive workloads that can add to the pressure of working in criminal law. The nature of the job and cases themselves can be incredibly distressing and can take a toll on people after a while, especially when there’s little to no downtime between cases. Ben Jones, UKIM’s Wellbeing Market Consultant and Director at Opus Law Solicitors, says:

“On top of the case load, we have to deal with clients who are going through personal crises and some of the darkest days of their lives. We have clients who are often mentally ill or have personality disorders. We have clients who are anti-social and challenging to deal with. When you are exhausted, it can eat away at your reserves when having to deal with a very demanding client. We can be called by multiple relatives of a client and have to explain the same thing again and again. This can happen at any time and often happens when we are at home and foolishly think we are finished for the day.”

Both experiences make it extremely evident that support needs to be available for those in law, particularly for those working tirelessly in criminal law as their wellbeing is the lowest. At UKIM Occupational Health & Wellbeing, we offer proactive and tailored wellbeing packages for solicitors and barristers to ensure complete psychological safety and support. Whether it is strategies used for preventative care, or reactive measures, there’s lots of support available to raise the bar of legal wellbeing.