Lawyers often deal with stressful situations for clients.
Divorce, moving house, death, victims of crime, housing, and financial difficulties, all sit at the heart of most legal transactions. Distressed clients at the end of a telephone often make demands and take out their frustrations on their legal advisor.
New lawyers don’t always appreciate that this is the reality of what they will be doing and it’s important for all law firms to stress to their employees the need to balance self-care with client care.
Often as lawyers we take things to heart for our clients, be it a loss at trial or a house purchase that falls through. We can’t help that, as we are after all only human, but what we can do is develop a culture within our law firms that encourages people to talk about the issues they face and how they are dealing with the stresses brought about by balancing these both at home and work.
www.LawCare.org offers some great resources for lawyers who may be struggling, but the best source of help is to seek help and support from those around you. There is nothing wrong in having a bit of time out from daily duties to clear your head and similarly a debrief after working on something highly emotive and stressful is a must!
Similarly think about your client’s mental health and what support they may need. You can’t always provide that support and often their needs will extend beyond your skills so have to hand information about where you can refer them to. Inevitably there will be points when you act as an unqualified counsellor but don’t be afraid to know your limits and point them to people best placed to assist with their complex psychological issues. That being said, you will still have to deal with the legal issue and just being aware of these issues and your own reaction to it will help you develop an emotional intelligence that is productive to the situation that you find yourself in.
Mental health awareness is not just about one day but runs through all of the activities we undertake. Embrace the awareness and look out for those around you.