Sharp increase in legal professionals seeking help for anxiety, reports charity

The number of legal professionals contacting the charity LawCare for emotional support rose sharply in 2020, with a rise of 9% on the previous year.

The charity, which offers emotional support, information, and training to the legal community, reported that – from March 2020 – 34% of all correspondence with the charity's support service had a Covid element.

Of the calls relating to the pandemic, the most often reported issues included worsening of existing mental health issues (13%), not being permitted to work from home (12%), struggling to adapt to home-working due to lack of assistance (11%), feeling isolated (11%), and being overloaded with work - typically due to furloughed colleagues (9%).

Anxiety-related problems saw the biggest increase - more than doubling from 45 people in 2019 to 111 last year.

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In all, the charity received 964 calls, webchats, and emails to their support service in 2020. Over 700 (738) legal professionals sought help, with the most common problems cited being stress (23%), anxiety (15%), bullying (10%), depression (10%) and worries about career development (10%).

In addition, the charity heard of practical issues related to childcare, relationship strain, redundancy or inability to find a job (including job offers made before COVID being withdrawn) and financial concerns. LawCare said it also heard from legal professionals being asked to work while furloughed.

Elizabeth Rimmer, CEO of LawCare, said she expected well-being problems to continue to rise in 2021, while the pandemic lingers.

Rimmer said: "Our support service continues to grow and help more people year on year. 2020 was a challenging year for most, we are not surprised that anxiety increased at a time of great worry and uncertainty. In addition our website traffic increased by 50% and we allocated more peer supporters and funded more counselling sessions last year than ever before. We expect demand to continue to grow in 2021 as legal professionals continue to navigate the challenges presented by COVID-19."

In October 2020, a survey conducted by Local Government Lawyer, found that 29% of legal professionals working at local authorities reported work hours had 'got worse or much worse rather than better' during the pandemic. Local government legal professionals taking part in the October survey also cited isolation, lack of motivation and lack of face-to-face client contact as downsides of working from home.

LawCare is an independent charity offering emotional support, information and training to the legal community. It provides support to legal professionals in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

LawCare provides support for legal professionals via a confidential helpline, email, webchat and a one-to-one peer support network. Their helpline number is 0800 279 6888. Further support, information and resources can be found at www.lawcare.org.uk.

Adam Carey

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