I have worked at LawCare, the legal mental health charity, for nearly 12 years and have listened to hundreds of solicitors on our confidential helpline during that time.
There is a misconception that solicitors are ruthless, tough and financially secure , strangers to adversity. I would counter that by saying that they are indeed “only” human as well as being highly driven professionals. Adversity can strike at any time and lawyers are not immune from hardship. We receive a wide range of calls from solicitors who have experienced bereavement, others who are going through a relationship breakdown, or those who are in financial difficulties. At the core of every call is stress, worry and often anxiety.
Certain callers have touched me profoundly. I remember one Christmas a partner ringing to say he was still in his pyjamas sitting on his bed feeling unable to dress for a partners’ meeting followed by dinner. I recall the young solicitor who rang from a supermarket car-park, weeping, asking repeatedly, “Am I the only one in this mess?” He had lost everything including his job and was too afraid to tell his wife. He was putting on his suit every day pretending he was going to the office.
Debt is increasingly a reason for calling the helpline. There are also the tragic stories of callers newly diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, or, the young, inexperienced solicitor who had just witnessed the violent behaviour of her desperate client striking the walls of the interview room with her head and fists before the arrival of the crisis team.
The most important thing is to listen, giving the caller undivided attention, waiting patiently without filling in gaps or rushing to find solutions and/or signpost. Listening is a very powerful, intimate way of connecting with another as there are no visual clues. The unspoken reassurance of really being heard cannot be underestimated. It also implies trust and hope that support is available.
There is no need to go it alone, there is help for lawyers we would urge anyone who needs help to seek support sooner rather than later, to prevent a problem becoming a crisis.
LawCare is here to provide emotional support through our confidential helpline on 0800 279 6888, we also offer email support, webchat and a peer support programme and have lots of advice and information on our website.
If you need financial support, access to career coaching or debt advice, SBA The Solicitors’ Charity can help – call 020 8675 6440 or visit the website.
Mary B Jackson