Working as a lawyer has many demands and pressures. Lawyers use their minds, finding innovative solutions to legal problems in individual cases and managing and prioritising workload. In his excellent book ‘A Lawyers Guide To Wellbeing and Managing Stress’, Angus Lyon suggests that lawyers tend to avoid thinking about and talking about their mental health issues due to working in a non-therapeutic culture with time and regulation pressures. He suggests law firms should develop and promote a culture of recognising unhelpful or negative patterns of thinking, reducing stigma about workplace stress through discussion and promotion of healthy work practices, adopting mentoring for positive support, alongside positive leadership.
So what makes our working hours pleasurable and sustaining – successful and happy firms seem to have a clear culture which promotes four major factors – clear work processes which ‘continuously improve’, staff support and empowerment for work and personal issues, and a customer responsiveness expectation and display by all including senior management. The fourth factor is an overall management and coordination of these processes starting at the top.
Before writing this editorial at 8:15am one morning, I asked six of my ‘early bird’ staff to give me their brainstorming ideas on how HKA achieved a happy workplace – their top five ideas (of twelve) were: open door to manager/team leader, facility to share personal and professional stresses, relaxed working environment albeit with clear work goals, high social interaction despite working hard, and clean and tidy working spaces.
Within a healthy workplace many social, psychological and operational factors are clearly at play – top of my personal list today is to encourage good practice in any of these issues and allow mistakes, if made, to be discussed and learnt from. We all make mistakes at work as well as at home, so promote this discussion without fear of retribution. We learn from both successes and failures.
As Angus Lyon’s last sentence states “Healthy Justice depends on healthy Lawyers”.
Koch HCH, (Does YOUR Firm Promote Wellbeing? Modern Law Magazine. May 2018).