Dr Emma Jones is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Sheffield. Her research interests focus on the role of emotions and wellbeing in legal education and the legal profession and she has conducted a range of empirical work on these topics, as well as writing from a theoretical perspective.
With the support of the charity LAWCARE, in 2018 three colleagues and I ran a series of five focus groups with legal professionals in the UK and Republic of Ireland on their perceptions of wellbeing within the legal profession. The findings from these demonstrate that lawyers face a range of challenges to their wellbeing, ranging from the high billing targets imposed by law firms to the demands of being self- employed as a barrister. Other potential issues include high levels of client demands and expectations, incivility within the legal workplace, difficulties in maintaining a work-life balance and the sense of needing to project a strong and emotionless professional persona. These findings were used to inform the development of the FIT FOR LAW project. A series of free online resources designed specifically for legal professionals in the UK and Republic of Ireland focused on the concepts of emotional competence and professional resilience.
The introduction and first course (Managing and Understanding Yourself) are currently available at WWW.FITFORLAW.ORG.UK. They focus on understanding the role emotions play within legal work and the need to acknowledge, understand and reflect upon these emotions. The next course, Working with Others, will be available in January 2021. The third course will be along the lines of a toolkit for employers, regulators and representative bodies to continue to raise awareness of the important structural and cultural issues that impact on the wellbeing of individual lawyers. The focus group findings have also been written into a book MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION due to be published in September 2020 (with all author royalties going to LawCare).
The hope of my colleagues and I is that this work will contribute to the growing discussions around wellbeing in the legal profession in the UK and Republic of Ireland. It is vital that these discussions are informed by empirical data and bring together academics, legal professionals and other key stakeholders within the profession to work towards sustainable long-term solutions to the well- being challenges which lawyers face. Doing this can enhance not only the wellbeing of individuals but also the status and reputation of the profession as a whole.