Stress is an inevitable part of being a lawyer and it can even be a positive force – it can help you push through long hours or meet tough targets. However, when stress becomes excessive, it can be damaging to individuals and to firms, leading to mental and physical sickness, lack of morale or a desire to take on additional responsibility, and worse.
The problem is widespread. According to a Law Society survey, 95% of lawyers have some negative stress in their jobs, and 17% say that this is extreme. Lawyers feel overloaded with work, unappreciated, isolated, and unsupported; many complain of unattainable targets, poor pay, and long hours. And while many firms say they have programmes in place that are geared towards improving the wellbeing of staff, 66% of lawyers say they would be concerned about reporting feelings of stress to their employer because of the stigma involved. Nobody wishes to be seen as a weak link in the chain of a professional practice.
A solution won’t be found overnight. This book is designed to encourage lawyers and firms to think more about the question of stress, how to recognise it in others and themselves, and how to take action before it becomes excessive. It is written for lawyers everywhere – regardless of location or career level.
Key topics include:
- What is stress – how does it affect us?
- How can you prepare for inevitable stress and be better fitted to cope?
- How can you recognise the signs of stress in yourself and others?
- What are the particular characteristics of lawyers that make them more susceptible to negative stress?
- Mindfulness, mind-mindedness, and emotional intelligence (EI) – what they are and how they can help you to cope with stressful situations.
- Vicarious trauma – how you can be aware of and manage unavoidable emotional reactions to and/or involvement with clients’ emotions.
- Looking after ourselves and our teams – what can (and can’t) we do to make things better?
The advice is informed by the author’s practical experience as a lawyer and psychotherapist, and it is underpinned by recent statistical and research evidence, and illustrated by the personal experiences of lawyers whose stories have been anonymised, deconstructed, and re-arranged for confidentiality. The book also includes tips, exercises, and frameworks to think about in order to help you to tackle stress and promote mental wellbeing.
About the author
- Wellbeing in the legal profession
- Who should read this book?
- How is this book structured?
Part 1: So what?
Chapter 1: Stress and mental illness – A wicked legal problem?
- The statistics
- Wicked legal problems
- Stress has had a bad press
- Can stress be healthy?
- Adjusting your frame of mind
Chapter 2: Prehab
- Prehab contexts 17
- Archetypes 19
- Rehab for VIPs 21
- Reversing the therapy 22
Part 2: Me
Case study 1: Andrew – Internalising problems
Chapter 3: Brains and bodies
- Low and high roads to fear
- The brain’s survival mode
- The ‘high road’ to clearer thinking
Chapter 4: Resilience
- Resilience theory
- Resilience markers
- A turning point
Chapter 5: Practical mentalizing (1) – Mindfulness
Part 3: You
Case study 2: Beth – Inter-personal causes of stress
Chapter 6: Practical mentalizing (2) – Mind-mindedness
- Thinking feelings and feeling thinkings
- Emotional intelligence
- Mindblindness and mind-mindedness
- Berne’s ‘parent-adult-child’ theory
- GIVE – Achieving assertiveness
Chapter 7: Team working and working teams
- Some basic assumptions
- Social intelligence
Part 4: Do
Case study 3: Chris – Environmental stress
Chapter 8: Stuff happens
- Vicarious trauma
- The effects of change
Chapter 9: Looking after ourselves
- Five Ways to Wellbeing
- Emotional literacy
- Press ‘pause’
Chapter 10: Working well with others
- Reading the changes
- Breaking the ice
- Dealing with difficult people
- Press ‘pause’ again
- Thinking hats
- Basic assumptions
Epilogue: What now?
What is to be done?
Recommended further reading
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