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The Wellbeing of Your Law Firm May Need Attention

It’s generally accepted that the legal profession works hard; consistently. Tight deadlines, huge caseloads and out of work hours have always been the accepted norm.

Yet the past few years have seen an explosion in the hours worked by many legal employees as the sector navigated the ups and downs of the pandemic and its concerned client base.

And it is taking its toll.

The Current Mental Health Challenges Legal Employees Are Experiencing

In a recent C.I.P.D. survey, the evidence suggests that the coronavirus pandemic heavily influences employee health and wellbeing.

The virus has and continues to disrupt due to staff absence, and in some cases, employees are suffering the after-effects of contracting the virus from long COVID. Although organisations are still committed to supporting their people, evidence suggests that activity in this area is starting to slip. A more holistic approach – based on the health risks and needs of the workforce – is much needed.

This was also confirmed by a post on Legalcheek at the end of last year that shared research from a Legal Sector Workers United (L.S.W.U.) survey, which reported that 71% of respondents agreed that their role had a negative impact on their mental health with only 14% saying it had a positive effect.

More than half of the respondents had been diagnosed with a specific condition, and almost seven out of ten described themselves as suffering from poor mental health.

The survey of 300 employees, including paralegals, solicitors, barristers, clerks, caseworkers and admin staff.

The main cause of this work-related deterioration in mental health seems to be material conditions in the workplace.

  • 219 people reported struggling to cope with long hours and overwork,
  • 122 cited pay as a key issue,
  • and 113 felt that the relentless pressure to bill and meet targets was a factor.

Shocking stats for all law firms to process, especially when the survey revealed that one in four law firms had no mental health support on offer for staff.

This comment is even more concerning as seven out of ten respondents said they would not feel comfortable asking for time off for mental health reasons and over half commented that disclosing mental health concerns would, in their experience, impede career progression.

It is no wonder that legal professionals are considering the workplace culture of their current firm versus others they could join.

So what can your law firm put in place to improve your legal team’s wellbeing? Here are several ideas.

Assess The Situation in Your Firm

Some of the larger firms we work with conduct a regular employee survey, though historically, asking your team about their wellbeing hasn’t been included.

Consider the nature of the questions you ask employees, and take proactive measures to ensure that respondents are safe from identification. Attempting to measure mental health and stigma in highly challenging environments like an overworked law firm may also skew results so that they are not representative of true employee sentiments.

This is stage one, as it is critical to know what you are dealing with first before you can implement a process to make a difference across your firm

Have Mental Health on Your Agenda

As in all areas of business, if you want an area to change, you must give it focus. I am sure your law firm has a business growth plan and ideas on succession planning, and you may be working with someone like ourselves on building your legal talent pipeline.

Your leadership team will have a strategic plan on how to take the firm forward, and in today’s business landscape, part of that needs to include looking after the wellbeing of your team.

As a first start, you can find some excellent resources on the Mental Health Foundation website here. In addition, assign a partner to the role of mental health lead in your firm. Consider engaging the help of external suppliers to help you implement an Employee Assistance Programme (E.A.P.) which is one part of a wellbeing solution.

E.A.P.s are intended to help employees deal with personal problems that might adversely impact their work performance, health and wellbeing. E.A.P.s generally include assessment, short-term counselling and referral services for employees and their immediate family – wherever they are in the world.

Support Managers To Coach and Lead Their Team

An easy start to improving wellbeing is to instil a coaching culture in your firm aligned with external training on mental health and wellbeing. As a manager trained in wellbeing, you can make a huge difference to your team.

Honest and open communication during regular catch-ups with your team members can help identify struggling people.

We know one law firm uses a traffic light system during conversations with green when everything is ok, amber when a few cracks appear that require help, and naturally, red for an extreme case and that individual needs support. The wellbeing plan has created multiple resources we can all now access to improve our mental health, so finally, I want to share a few examples.

 Provide Support Resources For Your Team

The way we think and listen to our thoughts can cause us to spiral out of control. It is no wonder that working with a coach proves to be a valuable support mechanism for many.

One firm we know utilises the help of an external coach, with team members having the ability to book sessions to help them navigate any stress they are experiencing.

Many of us accept that we lead busy lives, and the ability to handle overwhelm and calm can be facilitated in many ways.

Though it sounds counter-intuitive, there are several online apps that many individuals use with great success. The aptly named Headspace and Calm apps have over a hundred million users and provide access to multiple resources.

Develop Your Action Plan

Finally, improving the well being of your team is about taking action. We have shared several ideas and resources here.

In addition, the way many people worked remotely during the pandemic helped their work-life balance and wellbeing. We have written posts about the value of hybrid working here and, most recently, the move to a four-day working week here.

All of these ideas can be used to help your team improve their well being – although obviously need to be carefully considered alongside business strategy and key objectives.

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Posted By

Lynn Sedgwick

Managing Director

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7 Things Successful Legal Professionals Do Every Day

  • May 25, 2019

The most successful people in life recognise one crucial truth: time is the most precious commodity you have, and success is found through using the time you have effectively.

How you go about tackling your working day is the difference between success, mediocrity, and failure.

Here are 7 daily strategies for success utilised by highly effective legal professionals that are worth adopting if you want to stand out in your legal career.

1. They have a morning routine which sets them up for the day.

Highly successful people everywhere have in common an established morning routine such as early rising and exercise. In addition to an early workout, they may meditate or have breakfast with a loved one, and they will always take some time to plan their day.

Successful legal professionals might also use their productive morning time to focus on professional development or some type of continued learning, in the form of reading legal journals or law-related books, following or commenting on online forums or working on industry-related articles for publication.

2. They recognise their most crucial task and focus on it fully.

Most of us tend to avoid our most challenging tasks on a given day. Successful professionals, however, don’t shy away from or procrastinate on doing their most challenging work – they face it head on, first thing, and focus on it fully.

For most successful professionals, this is part of their morning routine. If you can finish (or at least get a good start on) your biggest task at the beginning of your work day, not only does it relieve a lot of stress and free up a lot of mental energy, it also helps to make you more optimistic and productive throughout the rest of your day.

For example, a criminal lawyer might spend her morning writing or researching a case.

3. They don’t get distracted by email or social media.

Whether we’re asking or answering client-related questions or waiting on their responses, legal professionals spend a lot of time dealing with email. In fact, we often feel like if we don’t respond promptly enough to emails, we may risk losing a client or missing a networking opportunity.

But the reality is that these constant distractions to answer emails or social media notifications only break our concentration and diminish our performance on our actual work.

Successful legal professionals know the secret to productivity and mental concentration: just unplug. Even if it’s only for an hour once a day, close your email application, put your mobile on silent in your desk drawer, and give yourself time to focus. Better yet, turn off your notifications and allocate a set time each day to deal with emails.

3. They rely on calendars over to-do lists.

To-do lists should be renamed ‘probably never do’ lists: only 41% of tasks on to-do lists ever get done! Successful people know that if something is to be done, it must be scheduled, rather than merely written on a long list.

Successful people break up their working week into very small blocks of time (15-minute increments or more) and follow that calendar religiously. When things run over-time, as they inevitably sometimes will, they reschedule the task, rather than leaving it to languish on a ‘to-do’ list.

5. They act on things straight away.

Successful professionals live by the ‘touch it once’ rule. This means that, wherever possible, you should deal with things immediately, to avoid the task hanging over you and taking up your mental energy.

So for example, when a great legal secretary gets an email about scheduling an upcoming meeting or a phone call from a potential witness, they will deal with it straight away – or at the very least, go to their calendar and schedule time in to deal with it, so that their mind is free to concentrate on their next task.

6. They lead a balanced life.

There is a lot of pressure in the legal profession to always be working. However, you can’t tackle everything in one day, so stop trying to. Remember, the most important assets in your practice are your mental faculties and social skills; if you neglect your work-life balance by burning the candle at both ends, you will eventually burn out and crash hard.

In addition to daily exercise, maintaining work/life balance is a proven way of reducing work-related stress. A healthy, balanced life is necessary if you are going to have the mental agility to be successful in your career for the long term, which is why successful legal professionals understand the importance of making time for themselves and the other people in their lives.

It is also essential to consider why you want success. Most of us want monetary success to support our lifestyles and families; however, if you neglect your life and family along the way, what success will you have achieved?

7. They’re not afraid to fail

The number one reason why many people never succeed in attaining their goals in life is that they never try. While the prospect of failing to achieve your ambitions can be scary, you shouldn’t let it stop you from trying.

In reality, success is typically built on a series of failures and lessons learned. Do not let your past failures weigh you down or make you feel like a failure. Successful people learn from failures every day and recognise that so long as they do, they are still on the road to success.

The truth is, you’ll only be holding back your career if you never learn to step outside of your comfort zone. So take that leap you have been putting off. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. You never know; it could be the leap that changes your life.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year download our latest guide here.

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5 Key Ways To Reduce Stress In Your New Legal Role

  • April 28, 2019

You’ve just secured your new legal role at one of the best law firms around, and life is good. But life is also stressful.

Wait. What life?

Starting any new legal job can be stressful, especially if it’s one that you’ve been working towards for a long time, because you’re eager to make the best possible impression. Being faced with numerous new challenges, combined with the pressure to impress, will naturally cause you a certain amount of stress.

However, while occasional stress might push you to meet important deadlines, constant stress and anxiety can leave you feeling exhausted and frustrated. In addition to reducing your productivity, this can lead to career burnout.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to both relieve stress and combat its negative effects. Here are 5 ways you can reduce stress in your new legal role.

Get/Stay Organised

Getting and staying organised is not only essential for keeping your stress-level down; it’s also a key to your career success and longevity, especially if you are aspiring to carve out an exceptional career for yourself as a great legal secretary.

Set up a system for categorising your emails as well as scheduling any ongoing tasks and projects. Most companies nowadays use a form of task-management software, ensure that you get adequate training on how to use this as it will enhance to your role and then get in the habit of using it – it will show your employers that you’re an adaptable team player and will also make your life much easier in the long run.

If your law firm doesn’t use a dedicated task-management software, implement your own system. This might mean using your own planner app, or if you’re not the most tech-savvy, you could always do things the traditional way with a daily planner. Regardless of which system you choose, get yourself in the habit of coming up with a rough schedule for how you will go about tackling your tasks.

Another important aspect of staying organised, of course, is maintaining a physically tidy workspace. By keeping your desk neat and free from clutter, you will feel less overwhelmed, while being more efficient and productive.

Set Realistic Goals

It’s natural to want to impress when you’re starting a new role in law, and employers will often expect you to go above and beyond in your first few months. While it can be tempting to take on more than you can handle, try to be realistic with yourself about your limitations.

If the goals you’ve set for yourself are beyond your current capabilities, you’ll start to get frustrated and discouraged when you keep failing to get things done – this is a sure recipe for a career burnout. Even the most experienced employee is bound to fall short of a goal now and then; as a new hire, it’s going to take you time to learn the ropes of your new law firm. So, allow yourself the chance to learn during this transitional period and try to view your setbacks as a way to become a more efficient and knowledgeable employee.

Rather than cluttering your to-do-list with an excessive number of tasks every day, try to take things slow and celebrate every accomplishment. If you take on too much too soon, you’re likely to get buried and behind on the tasks that really matter, which will only add to your stress. By focusing on your top few priorities each day, you will feel a sense of accomplished when you’re able to clear your to-do list on a daily basis.

Find The Right Balance

When starting a new job that you really like, it can be tempting to throw yourself in headfirst. However, as with setting realistic professional goals, it’s just as important to establish realistic life goals. Don’t lose sight of your work/life balance. In other words, if you don’t make time for the things and people you love outside of work, you won’t be loving your new role for very long.

Finding the right balance between work and family is one of the most important ways to reduce job-related stress. Making time for yourself and your loved ones, as well as disconnecting mentally from your job, will allow you to return to work refreshed. Try to schedule out your week in advance to ensure that you have time blocked out to unwind with family and friends. Setting this time aside will help ensure that you don’t get overly stressed or exhausted in your new role.

Take Care Of Yourself

Just as crucial as finding the right balance between work and play is maintaining your physical, mental and emotional health. You should never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep and a healthy diet. Eating poorly and not getting enough sleep will only cause you to be tired and less productive, which will only lead to more stress.

In addition to maintaining a proper diet and sleeping routine, one of the best ways to manage stress is by staying active. Exercise is not only advantageous for your body; but it also has a positive impact on your mental health, as well. This doesn’t mean that you have to join an expensive gym or punish yourself with an extreme workout. A simple routine of either a short yoga session or a quick run before you go to the office in the morning can simultaneously boost your confidence and improve your performance at work.

Make Use Of Workplace Resources

Your first couple of weeks at a new job can often go by in a blur; the combination of meeting and learning to work with a new group of people, as well as adjusting to new ways of doing things, can leave you feeling overwhelmed with information overload. It’s normal to not remember something that you might have only been showed how do to once on your first day.

While your firm likely will have an induction program, you should never be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand how to do something. It’s possible that you will be placed with a mentor or someone you can go to with questions – don’t hesitate to seek out their help when you need it. While asking your co-workers or boss questions may feel like it shows weakness, actually lets your colleagues know you’re serious about understanding how things work, rather than trying to do something you aren’t sure of on your own.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help.

Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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Work-life balance: are you missing out?

  • February 26, 2018

A work-life balance is something that we’re often told we need, yet many of us are guilty of throwing ourselves into the work part, forgetting about paying the same attention to the rest of life. So how can you tell if your work-life balance is off kilter? We’ve put together a guide to help you recognise warning signs, how to achieve a more balanced situation, and why it all matters.


Signs your work-life balance is out of sync

The first step to achieving a more harmonious work-life balance is recognising when there could be a problem. If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms it could be a red flag that your work-life split is off balance:

• If you rarely leave the office at 5.30pm it could be a sign that your work-life balance is weighing too heavily towards work. Of course, everyone has those days when something urgent crops up at 5.25pm, but if it’s just you and a few stragglers at 6 o’clock, perhaps your work-life balance needs some attention. If it’s just you and the cleaner in the office at 7.30pm every evening, it’s time to start asking questions.

• You go to work, go home, eat, mindlessly scroll through Netflix and collapse into bed. Maybe you don’t even eat at home, you heat up a supermarket meal in the microwave and eat at your desk. You’ve no time for the gym, socialising or after-work activities. You’ll likely feel exhausted and have little interest in anything once you leave the office: these are clear indicators that you’re mentally drained and suffering from overwork.

• Feeling irritable and resentful towards your job, boss, company, or colleagues is a sure sign that your work-life balance is out of sync. There’s no denying that work can be stressful, and colleagues can be, how shall we say, trying at times. But feeling that way regularly, even daily, is a clear signal that your work-life balance needs reassessing.

How to achieve a work-life balance

When you’re in the cycle of working late and taking work home, either physically or mentally, it can be difficult to get out of the habit. One way to break the cycle is to schedule activities for after work. You could have dinner with a friend or loved one or make plans to go to an exercise class or running group with a friend: anything that involves meeting up with someone else. The activity isn’t important, the key thing is that you’re compelled to leave the office by a certain time and not let someone you care about down.

And if work has got you feeling blue, try incorporating exercise into your daily routine. Not only is exercise good for your physical health, it improves mental wellbeing too. Build exercise into your daily work routine and try cycling or, if it’s practical, running or walking to the office. The physical activity will boost production of endorphins, the body’s ‘happy hormone’, and blast away stress. Not into high-impact activity? Even a stroll around the block at lunchtime will help raise the heartrate, boost endorphins and just expose you to some fresh air and sunlight – that can’t be so bad, can it?

Why a work-life balance matters

There are many reasons to recalibrate your work-life balance if it’s swung too far in favour of work. Perhaps the most significant question to ask yourself is that if you’re not spending non-working hours with loved ones, or pursuing things you enjoy, are you truly contributing to your or their happiness? As the saying goes, nobody ever wishes on their deathbed that they’d spent longer at the office. Most people have to work to live of course, and it’s great if you love what you do. But give your happy hormones a boost and share that passion with the people that matter most. Because – and grab a tissue now, we’re getting deep here – it won’t be your boss, or your client, or Dave from accounts that’ll be by your side until the last.

On a lighter note, doing things outside of work makes you more well-rounded. Playing sport isn’t just good for burning calories and boosting endorphins, it enhances teamwork skills. Being surrounded by work all of the time leaves you mentally drained and with a disinterested attitude to everything else. Different activities stimulate different parts of the brain and can help you think differently, and therefore perform more effectively, while you’re at work. Plus, hobbies are enjoyable! And who would say no to a little more fun?

If you found this blog interesting, check out more of our blogs or if you’re looking for that perfect role, check out all the vacancies we have available.

Want some tips or advice? Call the office on 01772 259121 and speak to one of our experts

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How to deal with stress at work

  • October 18, 2016

It’s widely accepted that a career in the legal profession comes with its fair share of occupational stress, and according to a recent study by Keystone Law, nearly 70% of lawyers believe they work in the most stressful profession of them all. The research found that 67% of legal professionals felt they were more stressed than those working in other sectors, such as accountancy and banking, with only 4% believing they had an easier role.

As a result of the stress of the role, law firms look for the most resilient and hard-working candidates when recruiting at both ends of the scale. Training contract hopefuls will have to demonstrate their commitment to the career and strong work ethic, while partners will be expected to provide examples of strong leadership skills throughout times of significant pressure. So how can legal professionals manage stress at work and develop their resilience?

Manage your time proactively

Establishing an effective work life balance is easier said than done, particularly in the legal profession. The majority of lawyers work from the early morning through to the late hours of the evening, and often their time is consumed by ‘public’ work, for example client facing meetings or work lunches, leaving them to work late to finish their ‘private’ work such as researching and preparing for meetings. Try to manage your time as proactively as possible, and wherever possible schedule both your public and private work for during working hours, to help readjust your work life balance.

Avoid perfectionism

Lawyers are trained to believe that if they’ll ruin their chances of success if every last piece of work isn’t perfect. Perfectionism and unrealistic goal setting, will only lead to unobtainable expectations and undue stress. The nature of the legal profession means a lot of pressure is put on lawyers, and setting yourself unreachable goals will only lead to you putting even more pressure on yourself. So stop worrying about what you ‘should’ or ‘could’ have done to achieve a perfect outcome and focus on aiming to do the best you can in any given circumstance.

Spend time doing things you enjoy

With a career as time consuming as law it’s easy to neglect your interests outside of work, and often legal professionals are forced to cancel social plans to work on time consuming projects. However it’s crucial that you spend time cultivating your interests outside of work, if you become consumed by your work you’re more likely to feel unfulfilled and motivated when work is tough and demanding.

Ask for support

Unfortunately, given the pressure many legal professionals fell they’re under, some lawyers may be reluctant to seek support if they are struggling with stress. Asking for support does not mean you are any less capable or likely to succeed, it demonstrates that you are a responsible professional who recognises that stress can have an adverse effect on your work. It may simply be that your workload has increased sharply and you need someone to redistribute some of your additional work.

Clayton Legal runs career events all across the country for legal professionals. Take a look at our varied programme and de-stress your career hunt today. And for the latest opportunities check out our job pages

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