find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Firm leaders don’t know why lawyers are unhappy

Firm leaders don’t know why lawyers are unhappy

Peter Slattery

Managing partners admit they can’t explain the high rate of depression in the legal profession.

Just over a fifth of managing partners surveyed by corporate advisory firm Eaton Capital Partners (ECP) said they were “not sure” why so many lawyers suffer from depression.

An equal number of respondents selected “long working hours” (20.7 per cent), “adversarial nature of legal practice” (20.7 per cent) and “it is something intrinsic in the nature of lawyers” (20.7 per cent).

The remaining respondents (17.2 per cent) answered “demands of clients”.

One managing partner said: “Simple. Demands of client service mean lawyers prioritise clients over their own wellbeing and needs.”

Numerous studies have shown that lawyers have one of the highest rates of mental illness compared to other professions. A 2009 University of Sydney report found that more than a quarter of barristers, a third of solicitors and almost half of all law students were at a high or very high risk of suffering from a diagnosable mental illness.

Johnson Winter & Slattery managing partner Peter Slattery (pictured) believes the high rate of mental ill health could be connected to the types of personalities common in law firms.

“There is good and not so good within law firms,” Mr Slattery said. “There are people who have an awareness of how the people around them are travelling, then there are others with less awareness.”

Mr Slattery said JWS is one that does not tolerate “yelling in the corridor and bullying subordinates” and does not have individual budgets for “business and cultural reasons”.

However, he agreed that, like all large organisations, the firm occasionally dealt with mental health issues.

On tackling high depression rates, responses ranged from calls for widespread profession reforms, such as nationalisation; lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise; and raising awareness of mental health issues within firms.

There was also support for significant structural reforms, such as the abolition of time sheets and more training for partners.

Justin Whealing, associate director at ECP, said firms needed to ensure mental health policies were supported by a proper analysis of the structural, cultural and financial factors that may be contributing to mental ill-health.

Such factors include billable hour targets, expected face time in the office and performance review procedures.

In May 2014, the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation released guidelines with 13 psychosocial factors for improving mental health within workplaces, with organisational culture topping the list.

Lawyers Weekly will continue its coverage of the ECP Managing Partner Survey over coming weeks, including firm leader attitudes on gender diversity.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Firm leaders don’t know why lawyers are unhappy
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Oct 20 2017
Podcast: One of law’s most infamous alumni – in conversation with Julian Morrow
In this episode of The Lawyers Weekly Show, Melissa Coade is joined by The Chaser’s Julian Morrow....
Oct 20 2017
High Court overturns ‘excessive’ anti-protest legislation
Bob Brown’s recent victory in the High Court over the Tasmanian government was a win for fundament...
Oct 20 2017
Changes to Australian citizenship laws blocked
Attempts to beef up the requirements to obtain Australian citizenship were thwarted this week, after...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...