In the legal profession the numbers are stark.
- Law is the third most stressful profession (Deloitte)
- 57% of lawyers leave law altogether before their 5th year in practice (Law Society, 2018)
- 1 in 15 junior lawyers (6.4%) who completed The Law Society, Junior Lawyers division Resilience and wellbeing survey (2019) had experienced suicidal thoughts in the month leading up to the survey.
At Eversheds Sutherland we recognise that the wellbeing of our people is a key priority. Our firm-wide Wellbeing programme launched in May 2018, with Keith Froud, Managing Partner (International) as its Executive Partner Sponsor.
Keith Froud recently spoke with The Lawyer on the topic explaining “It’s a commonly held misconception that a well-being strategy is only there for people who are vulnerable. Obviously it is for those people, but we also want to ensure that our initiatives can benefit everyone. We work in a high performance environment and it’s important that we are able to support ourselves, and each other, to achieve these levels of performance in a way that is sustainable over the short, medium and longer term.”
Overall, the Wellbeing programme involves an emphasis on embedding wellbeing into our day to day culture, including implementing mindful working practices influenced by the Mindful Business Charter to support working hard whilst maintaining wellbeing; fostering an open and inclusive continuous feedback culture where wellbeing is a central part of conversations with line managers; and practical strategies and recommendations to help us all deliver our best through sustainable high performance.
The firm’s Wellbeing strategy covers mental health, physical health and sustaining peak performance, with each of the 3 pillars having an integral part to play.
In May 2019, Eversheds Sutherland launched Mental Health Awareness Training in the UK to ensure its partners, legal directors and line managers have the confidence and skills to have open and effective conversations about mental health with the people in their teams. It was also introduced to the firm’s teams in Hong Kong and the Middle East.
As part of the firm’s Time to Change Employer Pledge – to end stigma and discrimination against mental health in the workplace – it established Time to Change Champions across its UK offices. The aim is to have Time to Change Champions in every office to help normalise conversations about mental health in the workplace and change attitudes toward mental health.
The firm has invested in an enhanced Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which is available to all partners, employees and family members to provide confidential support 24/7, 365 days a year for anything from money management, consumer rights or anxiety, to bereavement, caring responsibilities or dealing with a medical diagnosis. Counselling services are also available.
- Exercise, has been shown to be a key non-negotiable for our people when it comes to their wellbeing. This is supported by a focus on nutrition (via healthy eating campaigns in office restaurants) and improvements to our physical working environment.
- The firm collaborates across a number of international awareness days in order to drive awareness of, and engagement with, the firm’s private medical insurers AXA (UK) and Aetna (Asia and Middle East) and the services they provide to support health and wellbeing. These international awareness days include: World Mental Health Day, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Men’s Health Awareness Month and International Men’s Day.
Sustainable high performance
Eversheds Sutherland knows that its people work in a high performance environment and so support its people to achieve these levels of performance in a way that is sustainable over the short, medium and longer term.
Strategies for success include committing to the Mindful Business Charter principles and embedding these across the business; raising awareness on the positive and negative implications of technology through their Tech-Life Balance recommendations; and rolling out its ‘Sustaining Peak Performance’ workshop in the UK, followed by its international offices later this year.
The workshops are being delivered by Cognacity, who are experts in mental wellbeing and people performance and are based on performance psychology principles frequently used by elite sports teams. During the session Eversheds Sutherland’s people will have the opportunity to:
- understand the difference between pressure and stress and between good and bad stress
- understand their own cognitive and emotional responses to different situations
- recognise any unhelpful thinking styles and learn tools to manage their instant reaction
- understand the significance of ‘marginal gains’ in behaviour change
- learn a number of different tools and techniques to sustain peak performance
- create a personalised resilience plan via a 21 day challenge
This is an example of how one firm is prioritising the wellbeing and mental health of its people. The actions and initiatives may vary between organisations but there is one underlying theme. There is no quick fix. Within a law firm, to quote an often overused phrase, our people are our greatest asset. We need to ensure we continue to support and protect our people, both now, and in the future.