Despite the onslaught of day-to-day work and business, in-house lawyers need to remember to step back and look around, Peter Turner writes
One of the pleasures of working for my organisation is meeting people.
Not just in-house lawyers and members of the broader legal profession whom I meet professionally, but people from all walks of life.
I am regularly berated on King Street – where our office is located – by a gentleman who assures me that the world is coming to a rapid and cataclysmic end but that salvation is nigh. In the foyer of our building, I chat with foreign students on working visas, who attend a trade school located somewhere up above us in the same building. Many are keen to debate the recent changes to the visa rules and the spate of violent attacks that have occurred involving young students in Melbourne.
Our office cleaner is from Greece. His wife is currently pursuing a workers’ compensation claim for injury to her hand, which was badly hurt when a fire extinguisher fell off a wall (not ours!) while she was cleaning underneath it. My physiotherapist is being pursued by one of the big law firms for not paying fees to one of those friendly tax incentive schemes that he’d invested in but which fell over during the GFC. And then yesterday, I met with one of our office suppliers to discuss some of our IT requirements, and got chapter and verse about the federal budget and how the new super minerals tax is going to ruin us all!
The point is that life goes on. Whatever the big issues may be that demand our attention and call for our professional skills there has to be time out to “look and listen”, time for the family, time to think.
With in-house lawyers now working unprecedentedly long hours there is a heightened risk of “closing off”, withdrawing, a symptom often associated, with loneliness and depression.
A survey by Beaton Consulting in 2007 found that professionals experience more depressive symptoms than the general public and that, amongst professionals, lawyers have the highest incidence.
So next time it all seems too much and the walls close in, step back, take some time out, have a chat to the people around you. The black dog is never far away.Peter Turner is the chief executive officer of the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association.