Knowledge Centre

A fragile profession

Written By - Chyna Hunter - August 07,2020

A fragile profession

Lawyer Health and Wellbeing: How the legal profession is tackling stress and creating resiliency

Published in March, just before the UK lockdown began, this short and informative book could not be more timely.

Containing 13 essays written by leaders in the field of lawyer wellbeing in the UK and the US, the edited volume is a comprehensive overview of an area which will be invaluable to lawyers and law firms, and particularly to practice managers and HR teams.

It combines clear (and sometimes alarming) up-to-date data on lawyer wellbeing and mental illness, personal testimony of burnout from senior professionals, practical steps for individuals and organisations to enhance resilience, and an unanswerable case that those firms which put wellbeing at the heart of their business culture will be far better positioned to thrive, even in the current economic crisis.

As summarised by one of the contributors, Bree Buchanan, ‘taking on the lack of wellbeing in the profession would advance organisational effectiveness (i.e. profitability), promote ethical integrity, and – most important to us – (is) the humanitarian thing to do’.

No one is immune from mental illness. Another writer, James Pereira QC, vividly describes his experience of burnout while at the top of his profession. Reviewing the rewards of his high-achieving professional life, he concludes that ‘none of it was enough to compensate for the unending pressure and exhaustion of relentless work. I felt locked in’. Sadly, his marriage broke down, as did he.

Other chapters make it abundantly clear that Pereira’s experience is far from unique. From law student to senior partner, the challenges will differ but the risk of burnout is universal.

The book outlines the largely unseen fragility of a profession which is now slowly beginning to realise that unhealthy staff are unlikely to produce healthy profits. Wellbeing for every lawyer is a sine qua non.

The profession is still in Covid-crisis mode as it develops new working practices on the hoof. This may not seem a convenient time for firms to rethink their approach to wellbeing. In truth, there has never been a more pressing time to do so.

This book will point the way for any firm willing to shift the paradigm. And it is thoroughly practical.


Angus Lyon is a therapist and non-practising solicitor (