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Lawyer work more stressful than other professions ... say English lawyers

27 October 2016

A survey of  300 legal professionals from top 50 to 100 United Kingdom firms has found that 67.3% thought working as a lawyer was more stressful than any other profession.

The Lawyer Happiness Survey, was commissioned by English firm Keystone Law to mark World Mental Health Day on 10 October.

Is working as a lawyer more stressful than other professions?
OptionResponse
Yes67.3%
No4.2%
About the same22.2%
Unsure6.3%

The accompanying comments note that while around 20% of the population experience a mental health problem every year, a number of existing studies have shown that legal professionals suffer at twice that rate.

"With long hours often applauded and recent reports of some firms threatening to block employees out of their computers if they haven't racked up enough billable hours, it comes as no surprise that almost 70% of surveyed lawyers agree that their job is more stressful than other professions."

When asked what causes the stress, the most-cited cause was workload, followed by client demands. Keystone says its research identified six key industry factors that have the most profound impact, when it comes to stress, on UK lawyers.

What causes this stress?
OptionResponse
Workload80.9%
Client demands76.6%
Billing targets66.5%
Lack of support34.0%
Competition16.0%
Partnership issues13.3%
Other12.8%

The survey also asked participants how their job could be made more enjoyable and less stressful. Keystone notes that while around 50% of the UK working population now desire greater flexibility around their hours and work location, "achieving a health work-life balance in the legal profession remains somewhat of a struggle". A high 38% of respondents wanted greater flexibility in their career.

Keystone says the combination of the tech-savvy lawyer and increasing technological integration is forcing firms to rethink the way they do things. It says younger lawyers, in particular, simply expect more from their employer, as well as more time to spend doing other things that they enjoy. "Nearly 40% of lawyers said that they desired a better level of management as well as support to ease the burden."

What would make your job as a lawyer more enjoyable and less stressful?
OptionResponse
More flexible working hours37.5%
Lower billing targets36.8%
Better management36.8%
More support36.1%
Better remuneration35.4%
Lighter workload34.3%
Better collaboration21.3%
Opportunity to work remotely19.9%
Shorter commute18.4%
Better benefits10.5%
Other13.0%

Almost 80% of responding lawyers said exercise was one of the most effective methods of taking their mind off work and combatting stress. However, "despite many leading firms offering top-notch programmes for lawyers, the fear of being seen as a failure, just by admitting to being under stress, often lurks in the shadows, particularly for trainees or associates who are keen to make their mark," Keystone says.

What takes your mind off work and relieves stress?
ActivityResponse
Exercise78.0%
Socialising, spend time with family72.4%
TV and films67.9%
Outdoor activities59.0%
Reading books55.2%
Sleep52.2%
Drinking47.0%
Listening to music45.1%
Massage and pampering20.5%
Meditation/mindfulness18.3%
Having a long bath16.0%
Religion9.7%
Counselling/therapy6.3%
Other6.0%
Smoking3.4%
Recreational drug use1.1%

Practising Well

The UK survey confirms other research and evidence that law is a stressful profession. The New Zealand Law Society's Practising Well initiative aims to provide a starting point for any lawyer who is concerned about their own welfare or that of a colleague, or who wants to enhance their own health and wellbeing.

The Practising Well resources on the Law Society's website are worth checking out.

Last updated on the 16th September 2019