Trish McLellan from LawCare recently popped in to the Law Society of Scotland to give the staff an idea of what LawCare can offer to the profession. I tracked her down to find out more…
So Trish, what is LawCare?
“LawCare is a pastoral care service that’s funded by almost all of the legal professional bodies in the UK and Ireland. Although our funding is provided by organisations like the Law Society of Scotland, the service is completely confidential and independent.
“We’re here to provide free support for members of the legal profession, as well as their immediate family, trainees and staff, and help with any issues that are affecting their professional or personal lives. It’s a free service that can help deal with any health concerns or emotional difficulties that can arise from a potentially stressful career in law.”
What kinds of problems do people ask LawCare to help them with?
“The majority of our calls are stress related. In 2014, 84% of our calls from Scottish solicitors were people suffering from stress. Sometimes it’s the struggles of maintaining a work/life balance, sometimes it's other issues, like financial problems, that in turn cause stress.
“We have already had more calls during 2014 than in each of the previous three years, despite there being a few weeks of 2014 left. Most people call the helpline between two and three times about the same issue and not all calls are about major problems. Sometimes people call because they need advice on how to tackle a smaller concern before it gets any bigger.
“All of the staff answering calls have legal experience, and have been trained in telephone counselling skills. The supporters are invaluable; many of them have been through tough situations themselves and the majority are still in practice. We try to match callers with a supporter who understands the particular situation that they’re going through; between the staff there is a vast amount of experience of working in law.”
Is there any particular group of solicitors that call LawCare more often?
“We get calls from across the board; it tends to be proportionately equal across Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland, but not exclusively from any particular areas. Some issues are more predominant for certain groups, for example trainees and newly qualified solicitors are more likely to call about bullying.
"Sometimes we get a run of similar problems. If there’s a change in a particular area of the law, this can lead to challenges for those solicitors working in that area, but even just being busy can create stress.
“Scots solicitors have made up 10% of our call numbers this year, with a quarter of those at trainee level and a further quarter from those at assistant solicitor level. And 70% of the callers were female and 30% male this year, although in previous years there has been more of an even split.”
If you had one piece of advice for members of the Society, what would it be?
“Almost everyone that calls wishes they had called sooner. There’s a lot more that can be done at an early stage to prevent issues getting out of hand. LawCare is a completely free and entirely confidential service: there’s no harm in giving us a call. Even if you don’t think the problem is ‘bad enough’, it can really help to formulate your views with someone not directly involved.
“Some people find it easier to ask for help than others. Lawyers are often so busy helping other people with their problems that they don’t always take time to deal with issues before they become stressful situations.
“We are bombarded with information about looking after your physical health, but mental health is just as important. If you’re fortunate enough to go through your career without any significant issues, you’ll undoubtedly come across someone who isn’t that lucky. Look out for others and let them know that services like LawCare are out there. A more supportive environment is a better working environment for everyone.”For confidential help and advice, call one of LawCare's Freephone helplines, visit its website or log in to the LawCare Wellbeing Portal.