Lawyers hitting the bottle more than other professionals

by Samantha Woodhill18 Mar 2016
Private practice lawyers suffer the lowest levels of psychological and psychosomatic health and wellbeing of professionals, according to new research released by a doctorate student at the University of Queensland.

They also have the highest levels of alcohol and nicotine use and abuse.

The research confirms what has been anecdotal evidence for a long time: lawyers have stressful jobs.

But what may be surprising is that the research found that lawyers are more likely than other professionals to be exposed to poor interpersonal behaviour psychosocial: interpersonal deviance, verbal abuse, work obstruction, emotional neglect, bullying via destabilisation, overwork and isolation, even sexual harassment.

While the results look focus on Australian lawyers, Law Society president Chris Moore told NZ Lawyer that the results are not surprising.

“Law is a very stressful occupation for many,” he said.

“Right across legal practice you can see emotionally difficult situations which a lawyer will encounter every day.”

The report calls for a commitment from HR professionals by monitoring employee attitudes, wellbeing and all five job performance components including organisation citizenship behaviour, deviant behaviour, joining and staying with the organisation, and maintaining work attendance rather than focussing on task performance.  This, the report said, is likely to assist in identifying trends and changes that may indicate exposure to work-related psychosocial risks.

Moore said that while the legal profession might not be there just yet, many firms are working on effective solutions.

“Some firms have programmes to raise awareness, while others have contracts with organisations such as EAP which allow any employee any time and at no cost to directly consult a counsellor or to receive other assistance without having to go through the firm,” he said.

“The New Zealand Law Society has also been developing and publicising its Practising Well programme since 2009 and we know that there is increasing awareness of the resources and advice available through this.”