May 2-6 is Wellbeing Week in Law. The week aims “to raise awareness about mental health and encourage action and innovation across the profession to improve wellbeing.”
At Setfords, this is something we put at the heart of everything we do. With a dedicated Lawyer Wellbeing department, and numerous company-wide initiatives to improve the wellbeing of both our lawyers and support staff, we consider it every day. Today, we are speaking to two of our consultant solicitors and our Wellbeing Director about the importance of wellbeing in law firms, and how Setfords’ unique model can improve mental health, work-life balance, and more.
Why is wellbeing so important?
The 2020/21 “Life In The Law” survey from legal mental health charity LawCare provides valuable insight into wellbeing in the profession. The survey found that “the majority of participants (69%) had experienced mental ill-health (whether clinically or self-diagnosed) in the 12 months before completing the survey.”
It’s clear that, even with the context of the pandemic taken into account, there is something of a wellbeing crisis going on in the legal sector. This is something that Debjani Mukherjee, a property and private client solicitor at Setfords, has also noticed. She says,
“The legal profession is extremely regulated, stressful, complicated, cerebral, exciting with never a dull moment! But the thing they never teach you at law school is how to be a good listener, a counsellor, empathetic to your clients and colleagues, and most of all, how to stay sane, bright and happy through the tough days.”
Richard Hiron, a Setfords’ employment law solicitor, also notes that when he worked for a traditional law firm,
“I was frequently finding that people were trying to control my time and my output. I’d be required to get clients in quickly, bill them quickly and sacrifice on the quality, not of my advice, but on the amount of time that I could spend with them. My time, my growth and my progression are valuable to me. Now, I have an active choice about what goes into my diary and when, rather than having people who do not understand my commitments and my way of working allocating my time for me.”
The evidence shows that wellbeing is simply not a priority in the traditional law sector. As a result, this frequently leads to burnout, mental ill-health, and dissatisfied lawyers who think about leaving the profession. But what is the answer?
Wellbeing at Setfords
At Setfords, our core value is ‘Law for people, by people.’ As such, we put our people at the heart of what we do. We are committed to offering a better way of working as a lawyer.
At its core, our model gives lawyers the flexibility to prioritise their wellbeing and to make time for their passions outside of work. Debjani says;
“Thanks to the flexibility that I have at Setfords, I have found an alternative path alongside the law and I am generally skipping along with both – it’s marvellous! I started turning to health and fitness initially with yoga to bring peace and calm to my life. Then, I decided that instead of waiting until retirement to pursue my passions, I launched into my Diploma in Egyptology at Birkbeck!
I love dancing and my yoga gym offered Zumba classes. I realised that in order to stay motivated and never have any excuse not to attend I had to become the instructor, and now 11 years on I love every second. I started running when I turned 50 and went from zero to 42.2km that year. I have kept running and hope to continue with my marathons. I use the challenge to fundraise for charities, and I am amazed at people’s generosity. Since then I have qualified as a personal trainer, and I have exercise referral qualifications so I can look after those with specific medical conditions. I am just in the middle of a Powerhoop instructor course and a nutrition coach course.”
Our model gives lawyers like Debjani the freedom they need to live a fulfilling life outside of work. But, alongside the natural flexibility that consultancy offers, Setfords goes one step further with our dedicated Wellbeing Team. They look after all things wellbeing for our lawyers. From organising social events, regularly checking up on how things are going, and helping lawyers to expand their networks, the team is always there for them. Richard says:
“The Wellbeing Team frequently provide sessions to promote our awareness and understanding of our own needs as people.
In addition, I have also been supported by my colleagues which I cannot thank them enough for. I have made incredible contacts whilst I’ve been here at Setfords. It is, in many ways, a big network and, even though we all still work in separate departments, there is a feeling of unity. I often see solicitors asking what they feel might be silly questions, only to get a massive wave of support from their colleagues.”
The Wellbeing Team is there to support lawyers like Richard through both positive and challenging times. Marissa Ayres, our Wellbeing Director, says:
“Supporting our lawyers with any challenges they may be facing is so important to us at Setfords. If they are unhappy, they won’t be motivated to do their best work, which is what Setfords is all about. The Wellbeing Team is here to support them with anything they might need. We’ve supported lawyers with all sorts of things, from simply offering a friendly listening ear to solving more complex problems that are preventing them from doing their jobs or finding the right balance.”
With one of the industry’s biggest and best support teams, our core focus on wellbeing is unique. It’s one of the many things that sets us apart. And, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Many consultant lawyers join us because they’re fed up with putting their wellbeing last. Unfortunately, a successful legal career does not often go hand-in-hand with a great work-life balance, quality family time, or anything else that wellbeing means to you. But at Setfords, it is different. We encourage all of our lawyers to put themselves first and seize the opportunity to work whenever, wherever and however suits them best.
Advice for lawyers struggling with their wellbeing
Being a successful lawyer isn’t easy. It’s a demanding career, but it can also be hugely rewarding. And it doesn’t have to detract from your wellbeing. Indeed, how you work as a lawyer can actually help improve your mental health, work-life balance, and joy in life, plus much more.
So, what should lawyers who are struggling with their wellbeing do? Richard Hiron has some advice. He says:
“Crucially, start with your own personal values. If you are questioning why you are remaining a lawyer, then look carefully at what led you to become a lawyer in the first place. If you hate the work and you hate the culture, then getting out is pretty much a no-brainer. However, if you love what you do, but you hate the way that it’s done, then it’s clear that quite a different sort of change is necessary.
At the end of the day, don’t look at your employer and say “They could do this, they could do that”, look at yourself and say “I could do this, I could do that”. It is a much more rewarding approach!”
Setfords are committed to supporting our lawyers in building a career that works for them, no matter what that looks like. If you’re looking to reignite your passion for law, find greater flexibility, and make your well-being a priority, we want to hear from you! We’re looking for UK-qualified years with at least 5 years PQE. If that sounds like you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today.
Is consultancy for me?
If you are interested in becoming a consultant with us, get in touch. We are happy to conduct interviews remotely for suitable, UK-qualified candidates with five or more years’ experience. If you’re a good fit, you’ll be joining a team that was created for lawyers to do their best work.
The next step towards a better way of working…