Lawyer Health and Wellbeing: How the legal profession is tackling stress and creating resiliency

An examination of the tools and initiatives being utilized to address stress in the legal profession, and the positive impact they are having on individual and firm performance.

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  • Publication date: February, 2020
  • Pages: 100
  • ISBN: 978-1-78358-390-4


Now avaialble on-demand: FREE supplementary Lawyer Health and Wellbeing Webinar, contributing authors Bree Buchanan, Richard Martin, Renee Branson, Emma Jones, and Kate Dodd will discuss the ways in which individual lawyers and law firm leaders can tackle this growing issue head on.

More Information

The 2016 ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation study on Attorney Substance Use, Mental Health Concerns alarmingly found that 21% percent of attorneys qualify as problem drinkers, 28 percent struggle with some level of depression and 19 percent demonstrate symptoms of anxiety.

Recent years have witnessed growing concern internationally in wellbeing and mental health across the legal community, a shift reflected in a host of initiatives, networks, reports and research studies. Changes to working patterns, generational shifts, and an increased interest in overall wellbeing have contributed to a growing movement towards better working practices – across all industries but particularly in high pressure professions such as law.

Lawyer Health and Wellbeing: How the legal profession is tackling stress and creating resiliency brings together subject matter experts to highlight a number of varying initiatives that they are using to tackling this growing issue head on.

From using emotions within legal work to assist lawyers in developing psychologically healthier and more sustainable ways of working, to the causes and effects of the stress that junior lawyers are experiencing and the positive measures that are being put in place to alleviate that stress, to how a firm and its clients can came together to drive positive change in the profession, Lawyer Health and Wellbeing identifies the practical steps that individuals and firms can take today.

Executive Summary

Sample Chapter


Executive summary

About the authors


By Richard Martin, director, byrne·dean

Chapter 1: The lawyer wellbeing movement in the US

By Bree Buchanan, JD

  • Why create a National Task Force on Lawyer Wellbeing?
  • How did the NTF start the lawyer wellbeing movement?
  • The lawyer wellbeing movement is launched
  • Conclusion

Chapter 2: Emotional competence for wellbeing

By Emma Jones, Sheffield University

  • Why emotional competence?
  • Thinking about emotions
  • Thinking about other people’s emotions
  • Using emotions in managing others
  • Reflecting on your emotions
  • Coping with strong emotions
  • A proactive approach

Chapter 3: The Mindful Business Charter

By Kate Dodd, diversity and inclusion consultant, Pinsent Masons LLP

  • A stroll back in time
  • Back to reality
  • A race to the bottom?
  • A meeting at Canary Wharf
  • A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
  • The Mindful Business Charter is born
  • The first signing
  • What next?
  • So, what has actually changed?
  • Acknowledgements

Chapter 4: Culture and practice of law – creating lasting change

By Elizabeth Rimmer, chief executive, LawCare

  • It’s not new
  • Going back to basics – what is wellbeing?
  • Why does mental health matter in the professional context?
  • The legal environment
  • Emotional competence – fit for law
  • About LawCare – our vision
  • Culture change – steps we can take now

Chapter 5: Conversations that matter

By Lubna Gem Arielle

  • NILE – a model for conversations that matter
  • The challenge
  • My story
  • Background to the NILE model
  • “We all have mental health”
  • A definition of mental health
  • The mental health spectrum and workplace stress
  • Common myths
  • NILE – a four-step model for conversations that matter
  • Listening tips
  • What if someone insists they are ok?
  • Conclusion
  • Note to the reader

Chapter 6: Creating psychological safety

By Matt Dean, byrne·dean

  • What actually is psychological safety?
  • Building psychological safety – conversation by conversation
  • Do lawyers have the social sensitivity skills to do this?
  • Some rules might help?
  • There’s a much bigger problem – time!
  • Some further rules?

Chapter 7: Junior lawyers and mental ill health

By Kayleigh Leonie, trustee, LawCare

  • Starting your career in law
  • Junior lawyer research
  • Negative stress experienced by junior lawyers
  • Mental ill health experienced by junior lawyers
  • Supporting yourself as a junior lawyer
  • Best practice in the workplace
  • Mentally healthy workplaces
  • The future

Chapter 8: Anxiety in the legal community – a study of junior lawyers, legal practice, and legal education

By Professor Richard Collier FAcSS, FRSA, Newcastle Law School, Newcastle University, UK


  • Setting the scene – lawyer and law student wellbeing and mental health
  • The study: anxiety and wellbeing among junior lawyers – selected
  • findings and themes
  • Concluding remarks

Chapter 9: Supervision without stress

By Paul Bennett, solicitor and partner, Bennett Briegal LLP

  • Why is supervision stressful?
  • The aim of this chapter
  • My first love story – an introduction
  • Supervision is a skill
  • Supervision is a relationship
  • Set the standards
  • Be trusted
  • Beware of the micromanager
  • The basic process
  • My first love story – part 2
  • Stress

Chapter 10: Lawyers’ mental health, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, and the courts

By Paul Bennett, solicitor, Bennett Briegal LLP

  • Introduction
  • The purposeful approach of the Courts
  • The UK’s Legal Services Act 2007
  • Fitness to Practise
  • Dishonesty and mental health
  • Case study: Daniel
  • Case study: Sovani James
  • The Court and the Regulators
  • Conclusion

Chapter 11: Wellbeing and the upskilling of lawyers – professional insights and practical applications

By James Pereira QC, FTB Chambers, barrister and coach

  • Introduction
  • Failing to succeed
  • Wellbeing and the upskilling of lawyers
  • Conclusions

Chapter 12: When altruism is not enough – the economics of wellbeing in the legal profession

By Renee Branson, founder, RB Consulting

  • A continuous process 
  • The cost of attrition
  • Investing in wellbeing 
Full Overview


Bree Buchanan
Bree Buchanan is founding co-chair of the National Task Force on Lawyer Wellbeing and is a co-author of its groundbreaking 2017 report, The Path to Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change. Bree is chair of the ABA Commission on Lawyers Assistance Programs which works to ensure assistance is readily available for those in the legal community experiencing issues related to substance use or mental health issues. As director of the Texas Lawyers Assistance Program from 2013 until retirement in 2018, she regularly worked with individual lawyers experiencing these issues, and with legal employers who were seeking resources and support for their staff. Her tenure with that program followed a two-decade legal career that included positions as a litigator, lobbyist and law professor. She is now senior advisor with Krill Strategies, Inc., providing consultation on issues related to lawyer wellbeing and impairment for major legal employers. Bree is a frequent speaker for international and national law-related organizations, as well as global law firms on strategies for lawyer wellbeing and impairment. In 2018, she was awarded the “Excellence in Legal Community Leadership Award” by Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. She has shared her own story of recovery as a featured guest on podcasts in the United States and Canada, and her writing has appeared in Law Practice Today, Judicature and Family Lawyer Magazine. In 2018, she graduated from the Seminary of the Southwest with a Masters in Spiritual Formation, where she honed a deep interest in the intrinsic link between meaningful work and personal wellbeing, as well as in assisting individuals with vocational discernment. Bree tends to her own wellbeing by engaging in a regular meditation practice, cycling, rowing, and being willing to ask for help when she needs it. 
Lubna Gem Arielle
Lubna Gem Arielle is a corporate facilitator/applied theatre practitioner who designs and delivers leadership training for law firms including mental health and workplace wellbeing. Her focus on mental health awareness and advocacy emerged from her lived experience of clinical depression and anxiety. In response to a need to foster supportive environments, Lubna developed a conversational model (NILE) to elicit open and effective workplace communication about mental health. She is the creative director of Bridging the Blue, a Virtual Reality work made in collaboration with computer scientists at Trinity College, Dublin, exploring the potential of VR to facilitate empathic and non-judgmental listening. Lubna has an interdisciplinary background which includes 12 years as a solicitor (CMS, FieldFisher, PwC and head of legal at London arts centre, Rich Mix) as a legal educator making CPD programmes as a writer/presenter for Legal Network Television (a subsidiary of the University of Law) in parallel with lecturing on MA programmes in arts management at Birkbeck, University of London and Sotheby’s Institute of Art. Towards the end of her traditional legal career, Lubna studied fine art at Central Saint
Paul Bennett
Paul Bennett, partner at Bennett Briegal, is a specialist in both professional practice and employment law work. Paul is a nationally recognized expert who can help if the situation is challenging or potentially career-defining. Paul works across England and Wales, with London and Manchester dominating as the locations of key regulators.
Richard Collier
Richard Collier FAcSS FRSA is a professor of law at Newcastle University, UK. He has published widely in the area of law and gender and has recently been the recipient of a Leverhulme Trust Fellowship in connection with the project Wellbeing, Law and Society: Politics, Policy and Practice. He is presently writing a book on wellbeing in the legal community for Cambridge University Press and has just conducted research funded by Anxiety UK (2018) into experiences of anxiety amongst junior lawyers. His previous work has addressed family law, fatherhood, criminology, the legal profession and legal education and research and books include: Men, Law and Gender (2010), Fragmenting Fatherhood: A Socio-Legal Study (with Sally Sheldon, 2008), Masculinities, Crime and Criminology (1998), Masculinity, Law and the Family (1995) and Fathers’ Rights Activism and Law Reform (ed. 2007). Richard is an editorial board member of Social and Legal Studies: An International Journal.
Kate Dodd
Kate Dodd is a diversity and inclusion consultant who has a particular interest in working collaboratively with business leaders to develop the business case for cultural change. Kate advises Pinsent Masons LLP and Brook Graham Ltd and their clients across the full range of diversity topics. Kate’s interests include developing and embedding mental health and wellbeing strategies and helping businesses learn how to start conversations and reduce stigma. She has been heavily involved in founding and developing the Mindful Business Charter, which is a cross-industry set of principles, aimed at reducing unnecessary sources of stress and increasing wellbeing. The Mindful Business Charter has now been adopted by a number of leading law firms and financial services institutions. Kate is also passionate about supporting businesses achieve a better balance in relation to gender, race and ethnicity. She works with companies to develop strategies to attract and retain the best talent, and to cultivate the skills needed to serve their clients and communities. Kate is an employment lawyer by background, with 15 years’ post-qualification experience specialising in equality, diversity and inclusion. Kate is an experienced advocate and represented her clients in Employment Tribunals across England, Scotland and Wales. Kate also assists her clients with practical diversity initiatives, including setting up mentoring and buddying schemes and delivering unconscious bias training. Kate is a member of the Employment Lawyers’ Association, and a number of leading diversity networks.
Emma Jones
Dr Emma Jones is currently a senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield Law School, developing modules on digital lawyering and lawtech. Prior to that she was a senior lecturer and teaching director at the Open University Law School. She is also a senior fellow of the Higher Education Authority and an associate academic fellow of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple. Emma’s research focuses on the role of emotions and wellbeing in legal education and the legal profession. She is academic lead on the Fit for Law project, working with the charity LawCare, to provide free online resources for legal professionals promoting emotionally and psychologically healthier ways of working. Prior to moving into academia, Emma was a solicitor in private practice, specialising in construction law.
Kayleigh Leonie
Kayleigh Leonie is a solicitor specialising in employment law and a trustee of LawCare, a registered charity that supports good mental health and wellbeing throughout the legal community. Kayleigh has undertaken research, written articles, and published best practice guidance for employers on supporting the wellbeing of their employees on behalf of the Law Society of England and Wales. Kayleigh holds regular roundtables for employers to share best practice on supporting wellbeing in the workplace.
James Pereira
James Pereira QC is a practising barrister and coach. He was called to the Bar in 1996 and took silk in 2014, and is a tenant at Francis Taylor Building, Inner Temple, London. He is the co-author of several leading textbooks in his field of practice, and listed as a leading QC in both the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners Directory of the UK Bar. As a coach, he works with individuals, teams and organizations. He is an NLP Master practitioner, a trained organizations, relationships and systems coach, and a member of the International Coaching Federation. He co-writes a regular column in The Lawyer, “Loving Legal Life”, and is a regular public speaker in the field of leadership, wellbeing and performance in the legal profession. He is a co-founder of Gather Coaching ( and The Libra Partnership (www.thelibrapartnership. com).
Elizabeth Rimmer
Elizabeth Rimmer started her working life as a solicitor specializing in clinical negligence. She has been managing and developing charities in the mental health sector for over 15 years, and joined LawCare as chief executive in 2015. Ark_
Matt Dean
Matt Dean’s central purpose is to help people understand the impact they have on others. His first book, The Soft Stuff: reclaiming kindness for the world of work was published in 2019. He’s worked with employment problems since 1989, initially as a lawyer in City law firms. In 2003 he left Simmons & Simmons, where he had created a team that talked to people in client organizations about the risks they were running and the impact they were having on others. With Victoria Byrne he created byrne.dean, a consultancy dedicated to creating kinder, fairer, more productive workplaces. Matt’s best known for his inspiring facilitation; he’s done his 10,000 hours. He challenges people to recognize their power, focus on their impact and change their bit of the workplace. He’s worked in 28 countries and is equally at ease with the most senior leaders or large, all staff groups. Inclusion and diversity has been a big part of his work since 2004. Two head and neck cancers in 2009 and 2016 shaped his life and inform his work.
Richard Martin
Richard Martin is a director of leading workplace consultancy byrne·dean. Richard spent the first 20 years of his career as an employment lawyer in London, serving as a partner at Gouldens and then Jones Day (following the merger of those firms) before moving to Speechly Bircham where he ran the large employment team and sat on the firm’s management committee. In 2011 he suffered a serious mental breakdown, spent time in hospital and two years recovering. He is now a leading activist in the field of mental health. His day-to-day work involves working with organizations around the world to raise awareness of mental health and illness, enabling people to be more aware of their own wellbeing, creating supportive cultures in which wellbeing can be discussed, and ensuring that those in difficulty are supported. He co-chairs the Lord Mayor of London’s This is Me campaign, which uses storytelling to reduce the stigma around mental health and illness, and he leads the Mindful Business Charter, an initiative to remove the unnecessary stress in our workplaces. Richard is a mental health first aid instructor and coach. In 2018 he published his memoir of mental illness and recovery, This too will pass – Anxiety in a professional world.
Renee Branson
Renee Branson is the founder and principal at RB Consulting. Combining 20 years in education, counseling, and non-profit leadership, her passion and purpose is helping individuals, teams, and organizations cultivate resilience. After years of working with survivors of trauma she now teaches others the skills of resilience for workplace wellbeing. As a certified resilience coach (CReC), she provides clients with immediately usable tools to increase resilience, wellbeing, and optimism in the workplace. She works with lawyers, educators, business professionals, non-profit leaders, and others to help them understand and incorporate resilience in their own professional lives and in the teams they lead. Renee is a member of the American Bar Association’s Attorney Wellbeing Committee. Renee speaks to international audiences on resilience and wellbeing, including as a guest lecturer at the UCLA School of Law. She holds an MA in counseling psychology from the University of Colorado and a BS from The Ohio State University.

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