Olivia Moore, Careers & Wellbeing Manager at the Law Society of Scotland, reflects on how focusing on wellbeing during the summer break can be an essential career-development strategy for law students.
Summertime can be a strange period for a law student. While friends might be planning time off for a few months, for those studying law it can feel like the academic year ends and the career-building year begins. “What are you doing with your summer?” can actually mean, “Did you get an internship/great part time job/relevant voluntary work?”
With trainee employers looking for stunning CVs and proactive candidates, it can feel like you’d be mad not to maximise your time as much as possible with extracurricular activities that exclusively relate to your legal ambitions.
However, this blog is a reminder that you need to switch off for a bit too. Summer is a perfect time to find some balance and do things you enjoy. Our working lives are long and the opportunity for long breaks is short-lived once you get into the world of work. Investing in your wellbeing is a priority that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Recent statistics showing student wellbeing are difficult to find, but the recently published annual coronavirus and higher education students survey from the ONS gives an indication of the current picture. Students based in England were surveyed, but the results are likely to be very similar here:
- The average life satisfaction score for students surveyed in February/March was 6.6 out of 10. That was significantly lower than the overall adult population in Great Britain (7.0), but a big improvement on the life satisfaction reported by students a year earlier (4.9).
- The proportion of students feeling lonely often or always was 17%, significantly higher than the overall adult population in Great Britain (7%). A year earlier that figure was 31%.
- More than a third (36%) of students reported that their mental health and wellbeing had worsened since the start of the Autumn 2021 term; that compared with 67% in the same period a year earlier.
LawCare’s 2020/21 Life in the Law survey showed that the majority of participants (69%) had experienced mental ill-health (whether clinically or self-diagnosed) in the 12 months before completing the survey. Participants averaged a score of 42.2 on the Oldenburg Burnout Inventory, corresponding to a ‘high risk of burnout’. There was a particularly high prevalence among those aged between 26-35, which is a group of comparatively early-years career professionals.
These are statistics that employers are alert to, and have been engaging with us on – through Lawscot Wellbeing and other resources like the Mindful Business Charter – to change their working practices to ensure individuals are supported to thrive in their jobs.
It should also be a focus for us as individuals. Taking a proactive approach and learning how to balance priorities to protect our mental health is an essential skill for career longevity, but also to help us build resilience outside of work.
Starting a traineeship or a newly-qualified role while already under pressure won’t set you up for success. Instead, taking the time now to find out what’s in your toolkit to keep yourself healthy will prove invaluable in the years to come.
Consider, what might impact the life satisfaction score that you give yourself? With loneliness being a key issue among students, building your social networks, communities and interests is essential to ensuring you can be well-rounded and have a support system around you and an outlet for your interests. This is something you can start to tackle now over the summer break and take into your next year to build on, whether back at university or in the workplace.
So, my summer homework for you is this: think carefully about what else in life outside your career makes you ‘tick’, then dedicate some time to it. You’ll reap the rewards down the line, regardless of where your career takes you.
For more information about student support, visit Student Minds, the UK's student mental health charity.