If wellbeing is on the agenda for law firms, what is going wrong? asks Hannah Beko
A lawyer with 20 years’ service has called on law firms to focus on staff wellbeing in a bid to stop droves of workers leaving.
Hannah Beko suffered chronic stress and realised the major impact it had on her health, life and her legal career.
She puts high level stress levels in the industry down to the pressure on lawyers to record time, amongst other things.
Hannah said: “The chargeable hour, the six-minute unit…. Ironically these were first created to help a legal aid type budget to go further. But there is a massive pressure on legal professionals to reach billing and chargeable hours targets, as well as keep up with utilisation figures and write off explanations.
“But that’s not just it. I was a self-employed lawyer with no time recording, and no targets. Very often my coaching clients, who are looking for more work life balance, admit it’s not their firms asking them to work long hours, they have trouble switching off and calling it a day. The work is never done.”
She also blames management buy-in for the high levels of stress on legal staff. If the line managers and those at the top don’t go to the meditation and mindfulness classes, the juniors won’t go. If those higher up continue to prioritise the billing and client work, staff will follow suit.
Hannah has even written a book in a bid to help other lawyers enjoy a more balanced work-life, called The Authentic Lawyer.
“After discovering how to get my own chronic stress and beginnings of burnout under control, I decided other lawyers needed to know how to do the same,” she added. “There wasn’t really anyone talking about it or anything being done about it.
“Stress was readily accepted as part and parcel of the job. If you couldn’t cope, you were in the wrong career. Yet I was starting to speak to more and more lawyers who had struggles and either couldn’t or didn’t want to give up their careers.”
Lawyers are still leaving the profession in large numbers, even more so post pandemic. Newer generations of lawyers have reported that their health and wellbeing matter to them, sometimes even more so than earning lots of money or striving for the title ‘partner’.
Hannah added: “My recommendation is that we start investing in our people and understanding what support they need, then providing it. Not only is it the right thing to do, to look after our people, but happy lawyers are more productive lawyers and even provide a better customer service.”