Accessibility Links

Law firm introduces new mental health support

Posted by: Laurence Simons 14/05/14

In the bad old days, workplace mental health issues were largely ignored in the machismo-fuelled world of top-tier law. Someone might be advised to drop from drinking 50 cups of coffee a day to just 40, or encouraged to try a filter-tipped cigarette rather than their traditional mega-tar brand, but that was about as much guidance as was available.

It would be disingenuous to pretend that a few decades of change have turned magic circle and biglaw firms into legal creches, with pastel colours everywhere, financial specialists taking little naps after lunch and regular sing-songs, but attitudes have started to shift.

As HR teams gain more power and businesses begin to understand the impact stress and other mental health issues can have on their bottom line, law firms are adopting better procedures and changing their approach.

This was underlined by the recent news that international legal services provider Clifford Chance has introduced a new programme for trainee lawyers, entitled the Performance Optimisation Programme.

It instituted the scheme with help from workplace charity The Positive Group and hopes it will raise awareness of mental health problems as well as providing young legal workers with the tools and awareness they need to think about their own psychological wellbeing.

Dr Brian Marien, founder of The Positive Group, welcomed the development and described it as an honour to work with the prestigious law firm.

Motivation, energy and overall quality of life can all be improved through working on the mental health metric, the expert concluded.

Patrick Watt, director of corporate at Bupa, said change has been slow but necessary.

Writing for the Lawyer, he added: "We need to break the culture of silence around mental health to one of openness where every employee feels able to ask for help, and that these employees are given the correct support and treatment path. Only then will employees be in the state of mind to win."

Obviously, working hard is still crucial for success in the legal world, but this must be tempered with an ability to relax and knowing when to ask for support.