On the 8th of February, the LexisNexis Aspire training and networking group met for the first event of the year. The first session was facilitated by Richard Martin from byrne•dean who looked at how in-house lawyers can create healthier, more productive workplaces.
Next week, we’ll be sharing the content from our legal skills session. David Lowe, Partner at Gowling WLG, gave an update on Brexit, identifying the legal issues following the result of the referendum and the anticipated impact it may have on businesses.
Creating healthier, more productive workplaces
Studies focusing on the legal profession have reached alarming conclusions about the mental health risks faced by lawyers. A report on the well-being of in-house lawyers by Paul Gilbert of LBC Wise Counsel reaches the conclusion that mental well-being:
“is the greatest challenge facing in-house legal teams today. Before it gets any worse we must act and act now.”
We all need some pressure in our lives to perform well but having too much pressure is counterproductive and our performance is hampered significantly when we exist in a state of stress for too long. This can be made worse by negative automatic thoughts, such as catastrophic thinking when one identifies the worst-case scenarios and outcomes in a situation, which as lawyers, we are more prone to do – after all, it is our job!
Richard explained that stress is the:
“perception that the demands upon us exceed the resources available to us.”
The perception may well be right – we may be being asked to do too much, but equally, we may have lost some perspective about how urgent those demands are, how much time they will take, as well as the resources we have available.
It is important to recognise the downward spiral of stress and know how to break out of that state. Some questions to ask when you find yourself in a stressful situation:
- “Do I need to be as worried as I am?”
- “Can I do anything about it?” – If not, then it is helpful to try at least to put it to one side and take it out of your conscious thinking. If you can do something about it, then focus on what you can do now, tackle what you are able to and then stop.
- “What is the most urgent/important?” – Prioritise
- “Can anyone help?” – Don’t lose sight of the resources available
- “What am I doing to help/hinder?” – Common behaviours which make things worse include lack of sleep, no exercise, excessive alcohol
If you recognise some of the symptoms, you can actively try to reduce your own stress levels:
- Learn – humans (and lawyers!) are naturally inquisitive
- Connect – talk to people
- Give – it doesn’t have to be money, but give your time to help others
- Take notice – be in the present rather than thinking about the past or future
Fundamentally, you are part of a team within a workplace and creating an environment where you can talk about these things openly will also go a long way to improving the well-being of the workplace.
Aspire is a free networking and professional development group for in-house lawyers in the early stages of their legal career. To register your interest for future events please complete the form on the Aspire website.