New research from the International Bar Association paints a concerning picture of the effectiveness of awareness-raising efforts and the extent to which hospitable environments are being created.
The International Bar Association has published the initial results of a “bifurcated” research project, conducted in collaboration with Acritas, exploring the views of both lawyers and legal institutions about wellness in the profession. Over 3,000 professionals and 180 organisations responded, including bar associations, law societies, in-house teams and law firms.
The results, IBA surmised, confirm that wellness for lawyers remains a “global concern”.
Chief among the findings was that two in five lawyers (41 per cent) say they cannot discuss wellness issues with their employer, for fear of doing damage to their careers or even livelihoods.
This may partly be due to the fact that, despite employers believing that wellness is a workplace priority, this isn’t reflected in the experiences of their staff.
The research found that “most employees think that their employers need to do more”, including 75 per cent of professionals between the ages of 25 and 35. Moreover, 28 per cent think there need to be increased levels of awareness fostered in their workplaces, while 23 per cent “explicitly” called for more resources for professional support and direct intervention.
These findings are especially fascinating, given that 73 per cent of the institutions that responded to the survey say they have wellness initiatives in place for staff. However, only 16 per cent of institutions say they also offer wellness training, of any description, to those in managerial positions. This latter finding may explain why employees across the globe feel under-supported and unaware of support systems.
Elsewhere, IBA noted that wellness issues appear to have a “disproportionate” impact upon young professionals, women, those from ethnic minority backgrounds and those with disabilities.
Reflecting on the findings, IBA said that while member and regulatory bodies, together with legal educational institutions, all have existing initiatives to combat the high levels of psychological distress, anxiety, depression and suicide ideation in law, working together at an international level to address such issues is an avenue that must be explored.
This is because, it opined, there is a “general lack of knowledge in the international legal community about good practice, none (or little) evaluative research on the effectiveness of existing wellbeing programmes in the legal sector, and currently no forum for sharing information and good practice at an international level”.
IBA added that the results were not all bad, pointing to “some unexpected findings”, including that many lawyers say that they have healthy coping strategies in place, such as “meditation, yoga and a healthy diet, as opposed to the use of alcohol or recreational drugs as found in previous studies”.