Recent Read: “Can lawyers learn to go home and get more sleep?”

There’s an intersting story by Emma Jacobs on FT about the stress and lack of work-life balance in the law profession. Some highlights:

 

Intense competition, long hours, new technology and highly ambitious employees all contribute to the pressure. Competition from US firms has prompted UK law firms to raise pay for junior associates, offering salaries worth over £100,000. Such high levels of pay make it hard to resist large workloads. Prof Bird says the situation in law firms is made worse by a lack of social support, in which people look out for each other. One reason is the way firms are paid and how lawyers demonstrate commitment to their employer. “Billable hours pit people against each other, engendering a culture of competition,” he says.

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Law firm Hogan Lovells has introduced Project Respect, which includes workshops and trained advocates, to encourage employees who prefer not to take their problem to human resources to speak out about harassment and bullying. There is a danger, however, that firms think that putting mental health initiatives in place solves the problem. “It’s about fixing the organisation rather than people,” says Ms Rimmer. “People who lead teams are often good lawyers but might not be good at leading people. “You also get microcultures in law firms. You may have a good policy of working at home, but if your manager hasn’t signed up to it, you can’t [take advantage of it].”

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The workforce has changed since the days when law firms were populated by male lawyers with few concerns about childcare, he adds. In the future, Prof Bird hopes that mental health will become a concern for more law firms’ clients. “Stressed people take two to three times longer to do things. [If my lawyers are stressed] then I’m overpaying. “If I know there’s a firm that has rested people, I’d give them my business, as it’s better value for money.”

Carlos Alvarenga

Founder and CEO at KatalystNet and Adjunct Professor in the Logistics, Business and Public Policy Department at the University of Maryland’s Robert E. Smith School of Business.

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