The personal and professional benefits of ‘game-changing initiatives’

01 August 2022 By Lauren Croft

Implementing increased mental health and wellness practices has had not only a positive impact on this lawyer’s firm and colleagues but also on her professional career development.

Amelia Schubach was recently a finalist in the wellness advocate category at the 30 Under 30 Awards 2022 and is currently based in London. Speaking recently on an episode of The Protégé Podcast, she revealed how younger lawyers could step into leadership roles and take charge of projects and initiatives at their firms.

Ms Schubach has been leading the charge on wellness initiatives at BigLaw firm Hamilton Locke — which she said consisted of identifying “mental health champions” at every level of the business to be “beacons of support”.

“We provided them with mental health first-aid training. And essentially, yeah, like I said, they became go-to support people. And I think that’s really important for the substantive effect it has on employees, but it’s also great just knowing that you have the option to speak to someone in the firm who can relate to your position, whether they’re a partner or a senior associate, or maybe they’re a marketing manager. So just knowing that they’re out there, I think, has a big impact in its own right. So that was one initiative,” she explained.

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“Another initiative was just having externally facilitated sessions. So they were provided, for example, by Centred Meditation. And they came through a number of times to speak about how meditation and mindfulness can really help with general focus and control of the mind, and being able to get the kind of rest that you need, and things like that. We had potential projects come through and they spoke about self-leadership and compassionate leadership. And all those things are obviously very relevant for your own mental health, but also supporting others. Another thing we did was generally distribute communications and resources. So, I guess that goes to destigmatising the conversation around mental health.”

The firm also has a monthly newsletter, wherein Ms Schubach and her team would insert resources from Lifeline, Beyond Blue and others, in a bid to “slowly erode the stigma and taboo” around mental health.

“One of the game-changing initiatives, which we didn’t have before, was an employee assistance program. So, I vetted and spoke to a number of potential providers. And we looked for the most appropriate that had the full suite of services that could support lawyers, and non-lawyers, of course. And I had feedback as soon as that was implemented, people came to me and said, ‘It’s incredible that we have nutrition advice, and we really appreciate the option to get financial advice through the EAP’,” Ms Schubach added.

“[And] right at the beginning of implementing the mental health program, the first thing I did was run a firm-wide survey. One of the questions was, do you feel comfortable speaking about your mental health with someone at work? At that point, we had 65 per cent of staff say yes. And then, within three months, once a number of initiatives had kicked off and we had comms pieces going around about mental health and wellbeing, that number rose from 65 to 85. So, I would say that’s pretty successful.”

In implementing these initiatives, Ms Schubach said she learnt a lot — both professionally and personally.

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“Know your audience and know what their priorities are. Because I think everyone wants to help out, but they also have their own work pressures and priorities. So, if you tap into what they are looking to achieve and how your initiatives can help drive their outcomes, then I think you’re more likely to garner buy-in and support, and that’s obviously key to running initiatives and things like that, particularly as a junior lawyer or as a law student. So that’s something that I’ve learned professionally.

“It’s also great just to have those relationships, because you learn so much from people, regardless of level, honestly. I’ve learned things from my friend, she’s my friend now; but she was a paralegal, and I speak to her all the time. And I learned so much from her around comms, writing articles, [and] things like that. So, I would say, know your audience and see every opportunity you have with someone else as a learning opportunity. And take from that the expertise that they can offer on the perspective that they have. So those would be my two key professional learnings,” she said.

“My personal learning is don’t doubt yourself. I think something that comes with being in a consistently high-achieving environment is that there is a risk that you don’t feel like you’re good enough or that you’re not the best, but life’s not really a competition. Just do your best and back yourself. And what’s the harm in trying and putting yourself out there? There’s no harm, especially if what you’re doing is good, good for the world, good for the people around you.”

In addition, being involved in this kind of extracurricular work within law firms is becoming more and more acknowledged, Ms Schubach added.

“I think there’s more scope for helping out society, helping out peers and colleagues. And that kind of responsibility is becoming more and more acknowledged, which I absolutely love and totally support. So, I would say jump on board with things that you’re really passionate about. I do think that some workplaces or some employers obviously are solely focused on billables. I think that narrow scope of success is slowly diminishing,” she said.

“So, I do think, yeah, you should get involved, whether it’s pro bono legal work, so you’re still using your legal skills, or maybe it’s being involved as a mental health champion, which means you’re supporting your colleagues. There’s always a benefit to doing that stuff.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Amelia Schubach, click below:

 

 

The personal and professional benefits of ‘game-changing initiatives’
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