Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Legal Profession
Mental health and wellbeing in the legal profession is an issue of critical importance. While solicitors and barristers carry out vitally important work on a daily basis, sometimes the pressures and stresses associated with that work can have a negative effect on a person’s mental health and wellbeing.
The Law Council of Australia's mental health and wellbeing portal is an initiative designed to provide a centralised source of information about mental health for the legal profession. It highlights the range of resources and assistance services currently available through the Law Council's Constituent Bodies, as well as through national initiatives.
If you are in distress, you can seek help immediately by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14.
If you require urgent medical attention, or are in immediate danger, please call 000.
Constituent Body Support Mechanisms
A range of mental health and wellbeing resources and assistance services are currently available through the Law Council's Constituent Bodies. Please follow the table below for further information.
The Law Institute of Victoria has committed to a number of quality support and wellbeing programs, in order to provide members at every stage of their legal career with the information and resources necessary to maintain good health. These programs include:
- The Member Assistance Program – an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which offers a confidential counselling service and gives members access to qualified professionals, including psychologists, social workers and management coaches, to help deal with work or home issues, accessible on 1300 687 327, with up to three hours free of charge per issue per year;
- The LIV Wellbeing Program, which provides educational activities and resources to support health and wellbeing;
- The Wellbeing and the Law Foundation – a joint initiative of the Law Institute of Victoria and the Victorian Bar to promote ‘workplace wellness aspirations’ of both employees and employers and accessible at www.watlfoundation.org.au;
- A Statement of Shared Commitment, ‘signed by 10 legal, judicial and government organisations to improve the wellbeing of those working in the criminal justice sector’;
- LIV mentoring; and
- Information and options on managing your career.
For more information, please visit the Law Institute of Victoria website.
The Law Society of New South Wales offers ‘services and resources to keep solicitors travelling well and thriving in practice, as well as to support them when they face a challenge to their mental wellbeing’.
These services include, but are not limited to:
- Lifeline for Lawyers – a 24-hour, 7-day a week, crisis support call service, accessible on 1800 085 062;
- LawCare – a professional and confidential referral service for solicitors interested in accessing ongoing professional psychological treatment or support, available on 0416 200 788;
- A specialist panel of treatment providers including general practitioners, psychologists and counsellors;
- The Solicitors’ Benevolent Association, which provides financial relief in circumstances such as short-term incapacity, long-term illness, disability, bereavement, family breakdown and domestic violence;
- Regulatory and ethics compliance support;
- Mentoring opportunities; and
- Healthy lifestyle and personal care options through its member benefits program.
For more information, please visit the Law Society of New South Wales website.
The Law Society Northern Territory aims to open up the conversation around mental health and provides members with a range of useful resources and tools, including LawCare – a 24-hour professional, confidential and free counselling service, provided through Employee Assistance Service Australia (EASA) and available on 1800 193 123 or at www.easa.org.au.
For more information, please visit the Law Society Northern Territory website.
The Law Society of South Australia ‘provides a number of services to assist practitioners to reduce the pressures of practice and improve their health and wellbeing’.
These services include, but are not limited to:
- LawCare – a confidential counselling service, offering those connected to the South Australian legal profession the opportunity to consult a general practitioner who has experience in treating psychological problems, with the Law Society covering the gap payments for two consultations per financial year;
- Advice and assistance from experienced legal practitioners through the Lawyers Support Group, the Young Lawyers Support Group and the Complaints Companion Service;
- The Wellbeing & Resilience Guide, which sets out key aspects of developing and maintaining good mental health; and
- The Wellbeing & Resilience Online Programme, which is a free online course of educational models designed to be completed in an hour and a half and to provide advice and practical tips on dealing with stress through to serious mental health issues. Throughout the course participants have the opportunity to view videos made by members of the local legal profession who share their mental health experiences and speak about the importance of seeking help.
For more information, please visit the Law Society of South Australia's practitioner support webpage. Members can access more information and content by logging in.
Members can access the Law Society of Tasmania’s LawCare by logging on the website. Content is only available to members of the Law Society of Tasmania
The Law Society of Western Australia aims to support the wellbeing and resilience of its members through LawCare WA, which is a holistic program directed at managing career, life, and health issues.
It includes but is not limited to the following initiatives:
- The Member Assistance Programme – a counselling service: available on 1300 687 327, 24-hours, 7-days a week; or face-to-face between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday, with three free sessions per year;
- The Employee Relations Advice Line, which provides access to advice on human resources and employee relations issues;
- The Senior Advisors Panel, which provides access to advice on ethical issues;
- The Western Australian Referral Service for assistance with complaints to the Legal Profession Complaints Committee;
- Seminars on mental health awareness, stress management and mindfulness;
- Networking, social events and sporting tournaments; and
- Forthcoming initiatives targeted at addressing the challenges faced by law graduates and junior legal practitioners, such as: a Mental Health Hypothetical, where senior members of the profession discuss workplace scenarios that may affect junior lawyers; a Young Lawyers Committee Assembly to facilitate safe discussions on mental health and wellbeing issues; and Mental Health First Aid Training.
For more information, please visit the Law Society of Western Australia website.
The Queensland Law Society has developed a resilience and wellbeing portal, through which members can access all current mental health and wellbeing initiatives of the QLS and receive the information and support tools necessary to manage the pressures of work and life in the legal profession.
The following provides a summary of these initiatives, which range across the areas of guidance, education, research, working groups, publications, and future developments.
The initiatives include, but are not limited to:
- LawCare – a professional and confidential service for solicitors interested in accessing ongoing professional psychological treatment, support or information. The consultation service is accessible for information and appointments on 1800 177 743, 24-hours, 7-days, with phone, face-to-face, online, video, and live chat options. The QLS covers the cost;
- Leading Wellbeing in the Legal Profession – a program developed in collaboration with the Centre for Corporate Health, designed for supervisors in order to address the statistic that 60 percent of employees’ wellbeing at work is predicted by the quality of their relationship with their direct supervisor;
- Sessions on mental health and wellbeing, as part of the yearly professional development program;
- Factsheets and videos on issues commonly experienced in the legal profession, for lawyers as individuals, employees and employers;
- Articles on mental health and wellbeing, as well as links to resources such as self-assessment tools, stress management tools, blogs, and studies;
- The QLS runs a survey on mental health and wellbeing. The survey is completed as part of the QLS Practice Management Course and various other events, and helps to inform the development of QLS interventions and initiatives;
- The QLS is also a signatory to the Workplace Wellbeing: Best Practice Guidelines developed by Minds Count, formerly known as the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation, and runs an annual lecture;
- Wellbeing Working Group, which leads the resilience and wellbeing initiatives and is focused on providing the legal profession with guidance, education, events and publications on mental health and wellbeing;
- Equality and Diversity Committee, which provides the legal profession with guidance, education and publications on equity and diversity, particularly on issues such as bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination; and
- Following a recent review, the QLS is working on a number of new and forthcoming initiatives, including: extending the Ethics Guidance and Practice Support Telephone Service, the Practice Support Consultancy Service, and the Mental Health and Wellbeing Ambassadors Program; launching a mental health and wellbeing award, a wellness champions program, early-career lawyer podcasts, and a suicide awareness campaign; and, considering including wellbeing as a core requirement of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), amending the professional conduct rules to include a note on the connection between wellbeing and competency, and introducing a member survey.
For more information, please visit the Queensland Law Society website.
The ACT Bar Association has established BarCare – a confidential and independent service to assist barristers in dealing with mental health issues, such as stress, anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug misuse, family issues, work pressures, practice pressures, and related problems.
For more information, please visit the ACT Bar Association website.
The New South Wales Bar Association provides information to members on mental health and wellbeing under the following headings: Get Help;
Get Involved; and Vicarious Trauma. ‘Get Help’ gives urgent, confidential assistance to members through the following initiatives:
- BarCare – an independent, professional and confidential counselling service to assist barristers in managing stress-related problems, available on 0427 317 958 and at http://barcare.org/.
- BarCover – sickness and accident insurance for barristers; and
- The Barristers’ Benevolent Association, which provides funds for barristers suffering hardship.
‘Get Involved’ shares information regarding social, sporting and recreational events, and aims to foster collegiality and healthy lifestyles.
‘Vicarious Trauma’ has become an increasingly important focus of the NSW Bar Association’s Wellbeing Committee, and is currently addressed through Continuing Professional Development (CPD) seminars and videos. This focus recognises that barristers often deal with distressing subject matter in their work.
The NSW Bar Association is also a signatory to the Workplace Wellbeing: Best Practice Guidelines developed by Minds Count, formerly known as the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation, and has adapted these guidelines for use in barristers’ chambers.
For more information, please visit the New South Wales Bar website.
The Queensland Bar Association has compiled a panel of experienced psychologists, coaches and counsellors, with first consultations free of charge, to assist members experiencing mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug misuse, family issues, work pressures, and related problems. This service is independent and completely confidential.
For more information, please visit the Queensland Bar Association website.
The Victorian Bar has established a Health and Wellbeing Committee to promote the good health and wellbeing of barristers, and to arm them with information, support and access to health care services.
The Health and Wellbeing Committee’s initiatives include, but are not limited to:
- The Health Crisis Help Service – a 24-hour, 7-day a week, counselling service available by calling 03 9650 5540.
- The Wellbeing at the Victorian Bar – a survey and report aimed to compile information on the health and wellbeing of barristers, in order to identify and develop the resources needed to assist barristers to live well.
- The forthcoming Health and Wellbeing Portal. Subject to the provision of funding, the Victorian Bar intends to develop an online portal, which will provide interactive content in various formats, including text, video and digital media.
For more infornation, please visit the Victorian Bar website.
Get in touch
Does your law society or bar association provide a helpful resource relating to mental health and wellbeing in the legal profession? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Support Mechanisms
Counselling and other support services provided by the Law Council’s Constituent Bodies can be accessed confidentially. However, if you do not feel comfortable, are not a legal practitioner or member of a law society or bar association, or otherwise wish to access support outside the legal profession, a general service might be helpful to you. Read more.