Almost 50% of trainee solicitors have complained about the stresses of the position and suffered with mental health issues. Ben Jones from QualitySolicitors Edward Hughes says the industry is tough and can be challenging but if given the right support you can thrive and navigate the road to becoming a fully-fledged and qualified fee-earner.
Life as a junior lawyer is great, don’t get me wrong. I spend most days reading, typically statute, case files and certain types of disclosure.
I take one day at a time and each day comes with a different case and a different set of facts, particularly in police custody.
Stress and pressure are notable struggles in all aspects of life, and research confirms that junior lawyers are susceptible to experiencing mental ill-health due to heavy caseloads and long unsociable hours.
It appears the highly competitive nature of the profession is taking a toll on those who chose firms in the big cities – notably London, Manchester and Birmingham - in a bid to secure a route into the profession.
Each year, the Junior Lawyer Division undertakes a resilience and wellbeing survey. The 2019 survey was open between January and March and received 1803 responses.
The results are somewhat concerning due to the significant increase in the number of junior lawyers experiencing mental illness since last year.
With an increase on the 38% reported in 2018, 48% experienced mental ill-health in the month leading in up to the survey, despite the increase in awareness over the last 12 months.
Only 20% of those who had experienced these issues informed their employer, highlighting what in my view is the strength of the stigma associated with mental ill-health.
With alcohol identified as a coping mechanism for junior lawyers who took part in the study, questions must be raised, especially at the larger big-city law firms, as to what can be done to support the next generation of solicitors and promote a healthy work-life balance.
From my perspective the support is there should I need to talk to someone, but for anyone who is struggling, make sure you share your concerns with friends, family and colleagues. They will want to help you succeed and stay healthy.
NOTES: Ben Jones joined QualitySolicitors Edward Hughes in January 2017 and is a trainee solicitor assisting fee earners and managing case loads.
Working alongside the Criminal Law and Family Law teams he has gained experience in dealing with monetary and personal injury claims and landlord/tenant disputes, contact issues and family matters. He is a fluent Welsh speaker and recognised Police Station Representative, trained to advise suspects in custody.