A new mental health wellbeing counselling service for legal professionals has been unveiled, providing expert, anonymous assistance for the myriad challenges facing lawyers.
Support for Lawyers was launched last week at Clarence House in Sydney to coincide with World Day for Safety and Health at Work.
Founded by lawyer Marguerite Picard, a Melbourne-based collaborative family lawyer, the service is a national effort that also provides a “unique ‘after-care’ service via tips, techniques, podcasts”, among other resources.
It was borne out of a need for specialised and confidential support services dedicated to the legal profession, Ms Picard said.
“Having worked as a lawyer for over 30 years, I have seen the distress and unique issues surrounding the profession. Quite often these are not talked about, in fact in many places these issues can be judged,” she explained.
“We hope Support for Lawyers will not only help lawyers and those working in the legal profession to increase their wellbeing and support their mental health, but also help retain people within the profession. Support For Lawyers understands the stressors involved in working in a law firm, and honestly, we know there are huge problems.”
Who the service is for
The service intends to help lawyers like Sam**, who suffered a cardiac arrest in 2019 in the middle of a workday.
“I’m told I was dead for 28 minutes while colleagues and firemen did CPR. I was 46 years old and reasonably fit – physically,” Sam said.
“The doctors found no explanation for my death, so I don’t ‘know’ why it happened. What I do know is that in the lead-up, I had been struggling emotionally. It wasn’t just the workload – it was the anxiety of life as an employee solicitor, torn between onerous ethics and ruthless commerce. And some other stuff too, truth be told.”
It had been welling up for some time, Sam reflected.
“At Christmas 2018, when the pressure came off, I was unable to sleep for four nights in a row. I wished I had someone to turn to – someone who understood my trouble, who could offer ways of dealing with it, and who was available to give support at the right moment,” Sam noted.
“That someone wasn’t there, so I used the old method: stiff upper lip. They say stress is a killer, and it seems I learned it the hard way.
“Out of hospital, I found a new job, again as an employee solicitor (options were limited). Soon enough came the same old feelings, but this time I had them, instead of them having me.”
Just over a year ago, Sam started their own practice.
“Freedom of self-determination now offsets the worry and strain of work. It’s good. I might have got here more easily if, in the really bad moments, I had had that someone there,” Sam surmised.
The head of counselling for Support for Lawyers is Dr Tina Sinclair, a Cambridge PhD and psychologist of over 40 years, who will lead an expert team of professionals around Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, providing anonymous and expert support for lawyers in need.
“All providers at Support for Lawyers are highly experienced and dedicated to helping lawyers. They all are highly trained and skilled and understand the issues that lawyers go through,” the service said in a statement.
To learn more about Support for Lawyers, click here.
** Not the lawyer’s real name.