COVID has humanised everyone, including leaders, as the juggling between home land work life becomes more visible . this is perhaps an opportunity to accelerate the resculpting of workplace ideals so they reflect people’s lives today. An opportunity for leaders to listen to the shift in fears and desires of their workforce. An opportunity to retain and attract top talent.
So 25% of adults say work makes them unhappy and lawyers are amongst the most miserable. To someone who has spent 30 years moving and counselling often miserable lawyers, this is not news.
What makes lawyers particularly anxious? Is it the job, or does the law just attract anxious people? Probably a bit of both. Huge workloads, constant measurement of hours, micromanagement (or in some case no management) all take their toll.
Private practice has been notoriously poor at investing the time, effort and money in safeguarding their human capital – why bother when there is usually someone younger and cheaper to step into the breach? It remains a partnership focused business, with the expectation that as an associate or junior partner you will ‘suck it up’. Belatedly the more progressive firms are trying to address some of the concerns, but if the prize for being good at eating pie is that you just get a lot more pie, who wouldn’t be miserable with a drink problem?
Are lawyers more anxious or depressed than accountants, bankers, doctors or engineers? I don’t know – perhaps the gap between the law degree idealism of standing up for the oppressed and upholding justice and the reality of everyday practice is greater in the law than the equivalent reality check for other professions. Although the shock in moving from medical school to being a GP (another group of heavy drinkers) must be pretty big.
Anyway, as I can confirm from my sons, 100% of teenage boys say work makes them unhappy, so maybe becoming a lawyer isn't that bad.
There is even an eight-week mindfulness course out there purely dedicated to the anxious lawyer.