A good day at work? Not likely if you’re a lawyer

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By Polly Botsford on

It’s not just Trump and Brexit which are getting us down


Research by business psychologists Robertson Cooper recently found that a sad 25% of adults say that work makes them unhappy, and 10% say that they don’t even have one good day at work a week (what, not even Friday?)

We also know that lawyers are among the most miserable with unmanageable workloads, micro-managing partners and terrifying targets. Only last year, the American Bar Association did some scientific research with a philanthropic foundation on substance abuse and US attorneys. The findings, published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, found that over 60% of lawyers reported anxiety and just over 45% reported depression.

The research also revealed that over 20% of lawyers had problematic drinking, which is almost twice the level found in a broader study of a highly-educated workforce (only about 11% had hazardous drinking habits). There is even an eight-week mindfulness course out there purely dedicated to the anxious lawyer.

Yet it is also the case that many firms are increasing their well-being packages and perks, offering freebies and flexibility as Legal Cheek found in its 2016 Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey. As of the beginning of this year, Slaughter and May’s young lawyers can now take up a series of perks including a four-week paid sabbatical (for those with three years+ PQE), the opportunity to request one day a week working from home, and an on-site doctor (presumably for the other four days working in the office).

But none of these trimmings appear to be working.

Some in the media argue that the problem is that we expect too much — that the notion that one should be happy at work is simply unrealistic.

Or, perhaps, it is that we are looking at the stats the wrong way: the Robertson Cooper survey also found that 75% of us don’t find work makes them unhappy. That’s the vast majority.

And, paradoxically, the era of Trump and Brexit should at least make lawyers proud of what they do: in the first six months post-referendum, the rule of law has beaten ‘the rule of ministers’ in the Article 50 decision when the UK Supreme Court held that the legislature had to vote on withdrawal before the government went ahead.

Within hours of Trump’s travel ban, volunteer lawyers were on hand to help those who suddenly found themselves in legal limbo at various US east coast airports as a result of the executive immigration order.

Presumably, there will be no end to the legal challenges which Trump’s presidency and Brexit will give rise to. Something to consider for that paid sabbatical?

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