find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Competition, Policy & Regulatory
Category: Other | Location: Sydney CBD, Inner West & Eastern Suburbs Sydney NSW
· Work with a well regarded Partner · Sydney CBD
View details
Commercial Litigation Senior Associate
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Sydney CBD, Inner West & Eastern Suburbs Sydney NSW
· Lawyers Weekly Australia Partner of the Year 2016, Insolvency
View details
MULTIPLEX Regional Legal Counsel (Vic) | 7 to 10 years + PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Career defining in-house role · Tier One international contractor
View details
Junior Lawyer - Personal Injury Law
Category: Personal Injury Law | Location: Parramatta & Western Suburbs Sydney NSW
· Highly specialized practice · Challenging role with great opportunities
View details
IR Advisor/Member Advocate
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: St Leonards NSW 2065
· Permanent (0.8-1.0 FTE) role in a developing team
View details
Loss of private life at heart of mental health crisis: Chief Justice Holmes

Loss of private life at heart of mental health crisis: Chief Justice Holmes


The high rates of anxiety and depression in the legal profession are largely due to the intrusion of work into leisure time, according to the Chief Justice of Queensland.

Speaking at the Queensland Law Society Symposium on 18 March, Chief Justice Catherine Holmes said lawyers are under more stress these days.

“It is a more pressured age, there is no doubt about it, and that does have implications for our mental health,” she said.

“From my personal perspective, there’s nothing more damaging to mental health than the feeling that you no longer have a private life with time which is exclusively your own for leisure.”

Chief Justice Holmes said technology has transformed lawyers’ work habits, with negative effects on mental health.

“When I began at the bar, if someone wanted to get hold of you they’d ring your chambers. When you came back from court, there’d be a bit of paper on a spike and you’d try and remember to get round to returning the call.

“Now if I talk to a barrister in George Street, they chat with one eye on their iPhone for emails and texts.”

Lawyers have worse mental health than other professionals, including insurance brokers and engineers, according to Chief Justice Holmes.

She said the nature of the profession in itself provides ample explanation for why this is the case, without drawing on the personality traits of lawyers, including perfectionism and pessimism.  

“To start with, law school is now an intensely competitive place, […] then practice has become increasingly pressured,” she said.

“Some firm environments are most certainly more stressful than others with long working hours, high billable hour targets, oppressive performance review procedures and, at the higher end of the market, an expectation of availability to clients around the globe on a 24-hour basis.”

Chief Justice Holmes called for a cultural change in the profession “so that the things that really matter in life don’t run a very poor second to demands of work”.

“That’s not going to happen tomorrow, but on an individual basis we can look out for each other,” she said.

She urged older practitioners to look for the danger signals among young people and not be dismissive of their unhappiness.

Chief Justice Holmes said she has never personally experienced depression, but that it was significant that lawyers are now willing to break the silence and speak about their own battles with mental ill health.

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

Loss of private life at heart of mental health crisis: Chief Justice Holmes
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Debate, same-sex marriage, Law Society
Law Society acknowledges ‘diversity of opinion’ on same-sex marriage
The council of the Law Society of NSW has said it respects the diverse views of its members on same-...
Scales of Justice
Victoria considers legalising euthanasia
A change in law to allow voluntary assisted dying in Victoria will be considered by the State Parlia...
Old woman
Federal government ignoring elder abuse crisis, lawyer says
A Queensland lawyer has called on federal politicians to follow the lead of the Queensland governmen...
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 & ...