Elizabeth Rimmer is the Chief Executive Officer for the company LawCare. She joined the organization in 2014 and has worked hard with them ever since. She graduated in 1997 from Kings College in London majoring in medical law and ethics. Before she worked at LawCare, Rimmer had been working as a solicitor specializing in clinical negligence. She has had over fifteen years of experience operating and organizing mental health charities. Currently at Lawcare, she has been working hard to create a strong support system for professionals within the legal field and their families.
LawCare was founded in 1997, and since then they have helped thousands of people within the legal profession with mental health issues. The organization has grown and now serves the people throughout the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man, and Jersey. LawCare is focused to not let any lawyer feel alone. Feeling like they are the only one suffering is one of the biggest reasons that they do not seek out help. LawCare has a helpline that you can call where you will be paired with an employee or volunteer that also have experience working within the law sector.
Their helpline is their main support program. It is available to call 365 days a year. The hotline is confidential, impartial, and independent from the United Kingdom’s law system. One of the most unique qualities about the LawCare helpline is that if you feel as though you are struggling more than the person can help you, you will be sent through to a LawCare supporter. A LawCare supporter is an employee who has also gone through a large struggle. They are there for you one on one for as long as you may need. The company also keeps a list of counselors and psychiatrists on hand. These mental health professionals have had special experience working with lawyers in the past, so that they may know the best treatment route for you. These lists are kept on hand so that whenever the need arises they are ready to refer you.
The hotline was created on the basis that sometimes a human just needs to talk to another human. Seventy-five percent of the calls that came through last year reported stress as the reason that they were calling. Sometimes, being able to call a stranger and talk about your problems actually helps you to work through them on your own. LawCare says that most of their callers report that they do not feel as though they need any follow up support.
Another unique aspect to the organization is that they also provide support to families and friends of Lawyers. Not only do the legal professionals need help dealing with stress and anxiety, but sometimes their families need help knowing what to do to help their loved one. LawCare provides this information to families to help them grow together. This is very important because working with stress and anxiety, as well as other mental health illnesses, is already hard enough without having to worry about your family. Lawcare takes this worry away and even turns it around so that your family may help you become even more successful.
Elizabeth Rimmer’s work with LawCare has helped the United Kingdom greatly. Not only has she been helping to create a support system throughout the legal field, she is bringing awareness to an issue that usually does not like to be talked about. By breaking down the stigma walls and showing legal professionals and other professionals that mental health is a very real issue, we can provide support and resources to make the working community a healthier place.
On April 27th, 2018 The Law Society Gazette published an article called “Legal profession facing talent drain as mental health problems surge“. This article announced the publication of the second edition of the “Resilience and wellbeing survey report“, a report that collects and analyzes the results of the surveys done by members of the collectives represented by the JLD: legal practice course (LPC) students (including paralegals who have undertaken their LPC), trainee solicitors and solicitors with up to five years’ post qualification experience. For a second consecutive year, the person in charge of drafting this report has been Kayleigh Leonie, an associate with Trowers & Hamlins LLP and she is also a Law Society Council Member.
In its introduction, Kayleigh Leonie underlines that the “legal profession is at risk of losing some of its best talent if employers do not begin to embrace their employees’ wellbeing as a key asset for their business” and also that the “legal profession still has a long way to go to alleviate the stigma relating to mental ill-health“. Words that the Mental Health Institute of Legal Professions fully subscribes.
In its 2018 edition, the number of those who have done the survey has been of 959, versus the 214 people who did it in its first edition (four times more people than the last year, an increase of a 448.13%). That fact is itself, encouraging. Notwithstanding that, it is a long way yet to be walked, as the author of the report says.
For the very first time, it has been included a key factor of work stress: dealing with vulnerable clients due to their age, their mental o physical problems, for being in custody, due to their incapacity, traumas or for any other reason. From all those surveyed, the 25.4% of them (244) work with that group of clients.
Below, we will do a detailed analysis of some of the data collected on the report.
1. Stress keeps preventing employees to cope with their obligations
Despite the fact that, in comparison with 2017, the number of surveyed professionals have expressed that stress prevents them to cope with their obligations occasionally or regularly has reduced from the 54.6% to the 54%, it is also important to underline that those surveyed in the intermediate stages (occasionally or rarely) have moved to the extreme stages (regularly or never). The most worrisome fact is that even though those whose stress occasionally prevented them to cope with their obligations decreased from the 39.1% to the 33.6% (a decrease of a 5.5%) have moved to consider that stress regularly prevents them to cope with their obligations, from a 15.5% to a 20.4% (an increase of a 4.9%).
Also, it is seen that the 71% of the surveyed answer that, within the last month, they have regularly (35.5%) or occasionally (35.6%) felt stressed; in front of the 82% of 2017. That seems prima facie, a good result, but must ask ourselves the extent of the ability of the professionals working at Law firms to self-assess their stress level. Reached that point, we would like to express that it is necessary to include mental health contents in the study plans of LL.B. and legal practice courses. We cannot be happy with the results when only the 29% of those surveyed in 2018 rarely (20.8%) or never (8.1%) felt stressed.
When asked about the level of stress, those suffering worrisome stress levels, understood as those feeling severe (22.1%) or extremely (3.8%) stress, did decrease from the 26.1% to the 25.9%. It is still happening that the majority of the surveyed felt a moderate level of stress (49.6%).
2. High workload, still the most common cause of work stress. The demands and expectations of the clients, upwards
At the ninth question of the report, those surveyed answered that the most common cause of work stress is, yet, the high workload; followed by the demands and expectations of the clients. Let’s see the following table how did the work-stress related factors evolved in comparison with 2017.
We see the important rise of the pressure that professionals suffer when dealing with clients’ demands or expectations (that rise a 10% as a cause of concern and become the second cause of work stress). The high workload (it rises to the 67.3%). We could affirm that the high workload, solvable with hiring policies that allow professionals to face a minor workload with higher precision and perfection, is closely linked with ineffective management and the lack of support of the employer (which occupy positions 3rd and 4th). Billable hours’ target, despite maintaining quite stable (this cause only rises a 0.9%), become the 6th work stress cause of those surveyed.
It is also seen that the work stress causes might be avoidable with sustainable work policies within Law firms. In fact, the 34.4% of those surveyed answered that, within the last month, they would have been seeking for a new job (they represent a 9% less than in 2017, but it stills worry us), with the consequences of that for those firms that invest high amounts of resources on forming their employees.
We are worried, also, because some of those surveyed take alcohol to face stress. We should note that the percentage is not expressly said, but its mere mention is worrisome, due to the severe personal and professional troubles that addictions may cause. Some others face stress healthier (practicing sports, by taking some mindfulness sessions, talking to their supervisors, practicing hobbies, going to therapy, with a healthier diet or sleeping enough hours).
3. An increase in the number of those surveyed that suffer from mental health issues and the proportion of those who render insufficient the measures taken by their employers. A decrease in the ability to talk about their mental health problems to their supervisors
Another worrisome fact of the report is that the number of those surveyed that confess to having suffered from mental health issues within the last month increases to the 38.5% (a 12.8% more than in 2017), meanwhile the majority of them (an 82.1%, a 6.1% more than in 2017) acknowledge to have not told to their supervisors (the cause, might be, without any doubt, the stigma that the author of the report pinpoints at the introduction).
As well, the majority of those surveyed considered that their employers do not take sufficient measures to fight against work stress. In fact, the 83.2% of those surveyed (a 9.4% more than in 2017) considered that much more could be done in this respect.
In particular, an 80.2% of those surveyed (a 29.8% more than in 2017) considered that their employer might do more to offer some help regarding mental health issues in the workplace.
4. An increase in the number of professionals that know about organizations championing for wellbeing and dealing with questions like work stress and another mental health issues
An encouraging fact of the report is given to us by the 18th question, which asks “Do you know of any organization that is there to help you if you want to discuss stress at work or any other mental health issues?“. The 65.7% of those surveyed answered positively (a 15.4% more than in 2017).
We are especially glad of this result because of brave and altruist organizations such as LawCare, managed by Elizabeth Rimmer, that are doing a great job in this regard and, one step at a time, they are becoming well known within those professionals seeking professional help.
From the Mental Health Institute of Legal Professions, we want to congratulate the great job done by the Junior Lawyers Division of The Law Society to raise awareness of mental health issues within legal professionals, and we keep waiting to learn from the Anglosaxon role model, hoping to apply it in Spain and in continental Europe. We will work harder to get the support of the civil society, professionals, professional organizations and other organizations that are willing to sum to our exciting and laborious project.