By Ashley Young-
The coronavirus pandemic is having a notable effect on the well being of lawyers, causing them stress and anxiety, according to a survey.
The Legal Aid Practitioners Group’s mental heath and wellbeing survey carried out a survey between June and September, and released its findings today, after being presented in the group’s submission to the Commons justice select committee’s inquiry.
They reveal the effects of the pandemic on lawyers, and how they are coping during the lockdown period. The sample of the survey is not exhaustive but gives a fair picture of how many lawyer’s must feel. Insiders from the Law Society told The Eye Of Media.Com that lawyers can be very overwhelmed even during normal society, that clients sometimes need to keep on eye on the quality of their service, and even give some of them a helping hand sometime.
”The commitment of lawyers to various cases often depends on their mental and financial wellbeing
.The findings show that 79% of respondents experienced stress, 66% were having difficulty switching off from work, and 59% were having trouble sleeping.
Over 50% said they were working longer hours and at least four in 10 had more work due to fewer staff. A similar figure found it difficult to juggle their responsibilities at home and their workload.
Lawyers are often under pressure to deliver for their client’s because their reputation is in many ways based on their success rate. When lockdowns are imposed, many cases are extended in time, which can affect their finances in many ways. New client’s will sometimes have to wait to get the full attention of some lawyers engaged in a long running case, or very attractive financial offers from new clients could lead to compromised legal support for existing clients.
Expressed concern at the pressure that will come with the re- listing of hearings at short notice of cases which were adjourned during the lockdown was mentioned. Postponed cases which can restrict the inflow of fresh cases is also one of the concerns of lawyers.
Lawyers also want relief in the form of grants to legal aid providers faced with fixed overheads but reduced income in certain categories.
There is also a call for ‘basic support and caring attitudes’ from supervisors and partners. The researchers agreed that a career doing legal aid work ‘is wholly outweighed by any common sense approach to having a viable career.
It is no longer the case that those sufficiently committed can “make a go of it”… We are faced with a lethal combination of low fees, delays in court hearings and trials leading to delayed payment, LAA bureaucracy, and an aging workforce of stressed and burnt-out staff.’
The second evidence session of another major legal aid inquiry will take place tomorrow, and The Westminster Commission into the Sustainability of Legal Aid will hear evidence on family legal aid tomorrow.
The all-party parliamentary group on legal aid said it wanted its inquiry to feel different to other parliamentary inquiries and tell the stories of as many legal aid practitioners as it could.