Gillian Alexander is a senior solicitor in our Professional Practice team.
Awareness around wellbeing issues has grown exponentially in recent years and I think we are all agreed that measures aimed at chipping away at the stigma around mental health which has become so entrenched over the centuries, is a hugely positive step.
As a professional body we have a responsibility to our members which we take very seriously and we see the provision of the tools and knowledge to help the legal profession look after each other and support our clients, as an important part of our role.
With that in mind, we launched Lawscot Wellbeing last year and continue to build on it, driving awareness and encouraging people to take #TimeToTalk and share their experiences.
Recent stats suggest that around one in three people are affected by mental illness in any one year, so it doesn’t take a genius to work out that a significant proportion of clients who walk in to a solicitor’s office looking for help, will be in some way affected by mental health issues or suffering from poor mental health themselves.
Some of us whose work is anchored in Mental Health Law and Incapacity and Mental Disability Law, will have had specific training to help us deal with clients with mental health issues, but many have not. Many of us work in conveyancing, executries, or litigation, where on the face of things, mental health has nothing whatsoever to do with the legal facts of the case, but everything to do with your client and your relationship with them.
Just as it is important to tackle feelings of isolation when it come to our own wellbeing, it is important that we avoid feeling isolated or ill equipped when it comes to helping and communicating with clients whose wellbeing may be at risk. But how do we go about that?
Talk to your colleagues, they may have been through a similar circumstance and be able to share some useful techniques or strategies to help you support your client and if not, the simple act of sharing our concerns can be worth its weight in gold.
There is also a range of online resources at your fingertips. For those of us whose work is grounded in Mental Health Law, there is the Code of conduct for Mental Health Tribunal Work. Our rules and guidance includes Vulnerable client guidance and Lawscot Wellbeing includes a section for you to refer to if you are concerned about a client.
And of course my Professional Practice colleagues and I are at the end of the phone with support and advice on legal practice and procedure.