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Junior lawyer mental health hit hardest by lockdown, research reveals

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When compared with WFH experience of senior solicitors

A third of junior lawyers believe their mental health declined as a result of the coronavirus lockdowns compared to a quarter of senior solicitors.

This was one of the headline findings in new research undertaken by legal recruiters Douglas Scott about the effect of lockdown on lawyers’ mental health.

The research shows that working from home has been a positive or neutral experience for the majority of the 3,100 solicitors surveyed across England and Wales, but over one in four believe it has had a negative impact on their mental health.

The data suggests that 90% of all lawyers worked from home during the recent lockdowns, and 28% believed the experience had a negative impact on their mental health.

Nearly half (47%) of legal professionals adversely affected did not believe they received adequate levels of support from their employers when they worked from home.

Those employed in corporate law departments were most likely to believe the experience had a negative impact on their mental health, according to the research. This could be down to the long hours and tight deadlines experienced by many in the trade, or the uncertainty around the economic impact on financing and appetite for deals.

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Commenting on the findings, Jonathan Nolan, associate director at Douglas Scott, told Legal Cheek: “Law firms should be commended for enabling home working for 90% of legal professionals with very little notice and for the majority the experience has been positive or neutral at worst.”

He continued:

“However, a significant number have had a negative experience, and maybe employers can change that story by switching up the levels of support provided.”

LawCare chief Elizabeth Rimmer shared with us some of the reasons why juniors, in particular, have been adversely affected by home-working during lockdown. “We know that lockdown is having a significant impact on junior lawyers; 50% of our support contacts last year were from junior lawyers,” she said. “Deterioration in mental health, struggles with working from home, isolation and poor supervision were common concerns shared with us.”

“The most vulnerable time in anyone’s legal career is making that transition into practice and it’s particularly tough to embark on a legal career during these uncertain and difficult times, she continued. We would urge legal workplaces to reach out and listen to the concerns of junior staff and take active steps to provide them with support and nurturing supervision.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson predicted last month that a return to office-based working is likely in “a few short months”. This could improve the situation for junior solicitors, many of whom were keener to return to the office in some form after the crisis had passed than their more senior colleagues, according to research undertaken after the first national lockdown in the summer.

Feeling stressed? Contact LawCare.

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