Don’t show weakness”.
Does this disconnected and outdated dogma of the legal profession sound familiar?
But that weakness is there; with Junior Lawyers Division statistics collected in 2018 showing 90% of respondents encountering stress of some kind, and 39% of trainees reporting mental health problems (up 19% from 2017). For trainees especially, being on a steep learning curve at the beginning of a legal career, engaging with weakness is vital for wellbeing. Here are some good places to start.
The Ashfords Culture
Ashfords has a proactive approach to mental health and recently re-committed to the Mindful Employer Charter. This demonstrates the ongoing dedication of the firm to providing a open culture with non-judgemental support for anyone suffering with mental health. With initiatives such as daily free fruit for employees, weekly yoga and the Ashfords wellbeing day (complete with cake and puppies), this supportive culture is wide reaching. My advice is take advantage of the opportunities and get involved.
There is a reason everyone says the people are the best part of being at Ashfords. Whether its to fellow trainees, other department members or supervisors, talk to someone about any issues, however big or small. With such a wealth of experience packed into the firm, your problems have undoubtedly come up before and building that solidarity is already half the battle.
Time away from the office is as important as time in it. Having a hobby is a great way to unwind. With a South West training contract being blessed with such beautiful Devon scenery, getting out in the fresh air is about as cathartic as it gets. I love to cook, so every evening is a chance to lose myself in the kitchen and escape the world outside. So find something that lets you escape.
When researching for this blog, I came across a Law Society article on emotional resilience. I felt it carried an important message. We can’t escape the demanding nature of a legal career and instead should train ourselves to manage this as effectively as we can. The article talks about the development of the following five characteristics. What is key is that they all remain in our control (while events around us may not!).
- Awareness – the ability to know how you’re feeling at any moment and why, and to differentiate those feelings.
- Optimism – the ability to find positive aspects in most situations. Keep your head up.
- Perseverance – the classic ‘never give up’ attitude. As trainees, we make mistakes. But we continue to learn as we try again.
- Perspective – seeing obstacles as opportunities is quintessential corporate mantra. But perspective to me means seeing the wood from the trees. A lawyer’s attention to detail can be a curse. We also need to take a step back and see the bigger picture.
- Inner Control – this final one encompasses health and wellbeing as a whole. Inner control allows the articulation of feelings in a healthy manner. Remember that you are in control of your choices, so take the responsibility to look after yourself in the most appropriate way.