Articles From the Team

Is it stressful being a lawyer?

May 14th – 20th is Mental Health Awareness Week and this year the focus of the campaign is on stress. While it remains difficult to define medically, stress is now considered to be a major cause of death. I think it is fair to say that at some point in our lives and in one way or another, we all know what it’s like to feel stressed. Situations or events can make a person feel stressed; being placed under pressure whether unduly or not can make a person feel stressed. For different people this manifests itself in different ways, and we all have different ways of reacting or coping.

According to the Mental Health Foundation stress is a natural defensive reaction, much in common with fight or flight. This can have both physical and psychological affects including anxiety, depression, fatigue, weight fluctuation; and the list goes on. The most recent studies show that some 74% of people in the UK have felt stressed to the point where they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. Charities such as Mind and the Mental Health Foundation offer some very useful advice on how to manage and reduce stress but the ultimate point is, stress is natural and therefore will always come back. The terms ‘cope’ or ‘coping’ however are what I find most interesting.

As a specialist legal recruiter I have chosen a career that is quite high pressured, within both an industry and sector that demand a lot of its people. One of the key reasons lawyers turn to us for advice on their career moves is due to the pressures they feel at work coming from the intense targets, long hours, lack of support etc. In our experience, it is stressful being a lawyer whether you work in private practice or in-house. It might be that a change of scenery would be the cure, but it might only be a short term solution to a long term problem, in fact it might be only one of several factors contributing to the pressure and stress you’re feeling. It’s my job to ensure that whatever you decide to do next, wherever you decide to move to, you do so for the right reasons and you do so happily rather than anxiously. The reality is your job as a lawyer will always be stressful and it’s important to find a balance and a way to cope with this stress.

While there is no denying that the law is a high pressured and stressful industry, it is encouraging to see how seriously the profession takes mental health issues and the supporting provisions in place to ensure that you, as a lawyer, should never have to feel like you cannot cope. Coping mechanisms vary greatly by individual. Whenever I feel stressed or otherwise wound up, I hit things with sticks! As a drummer, not a vigilante or otherwise randomly violent individual. Regardless of the cause of stress, it’s great to have an outlet and I for one can certainly attest to the benefits.

Some people feel that they thrive under pressure and seemingly take it in their stride, whereas others would benefit greatly from reassurance and continued support. Some turn to drink, some turn to other vices, some don’t do anything at all but feel the same weight as those who do have an outlet. Talking is a fantastic form of coping, although some will find this easier than others. Irrespective of your profession, your position, the situation etc. it is important to speak up. Talk to your boss, talk to your colleagues, talk to your friends and family; and of course if you need to, talk to your recruiter.

For more information please contact Gishan Abeyratne at BCL Legal.

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