New Zealand Law Society - Lawyer work more stressful than other professions ... say English lawyers

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

This article is over 3 years old. More recent information on this subject may exist.

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?

Option Response
Yes 67.3%
No 4.2%
About the same 22.2%
Unsure 6.3%

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?

Option Response
Workload 80.9%
Client demands 76.6%
Billing targets 66.5%
Lack of support 34.0%
Competition 16.0%
Partnership issues 13.3%
Other 12.8%

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?

Option Response
More flexible working hours 37.5%
Lower billing targets 36.8%
Better management 36.8%
More support 36.1%
Better remuneration 35.4%
Lighter workload 34.3%
Better collaboration 21.3%
Opportunity to work remotely 19.9%
Shorter commute 18.4%
Better benefits 10.5%
Other 13.0%

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?

Activity Response
Exercise 78.0%
Socialising, spend time with family 72.4%
TV and films 67.9%
Outdoor activities 59.0%
Reading books 55.2%
Sleep 52.2%
Drinking 47.0%
Listening to music 45.1%
Massage and pampering 20.5%
Meditation/mindfulness 18.3%
Having a long bath 16.0%
Religion 9.7%
Counselling/therapy 6.3%
Other 6.0%
Smoking 3.4%
Recreational drug use 1.1%

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.