Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Failte go hEireann

When LawCare started in 1997, it was the result of a working party formed by assorted members of the Law Society of England and Wales who had realised that some solicitors drank rather a lot, and it would be nice if there was someone who would help them to stop doing so before an intervention (the Law Society compulsorily taking over their practice) became necessary.

Since those early days LawCare has grown and grown beyond anything that could have been imagined in 1997. We still support solicitors with alcohol problems, but now we also support barristers, judges, legal executives, barristers clerks, advocates, staff and families, with all kinds of health problems – three-quarters of our calls relate to stress or depression. We also cover the whole of the British Isles. The Law Society of Scotland was the first organisation outside England and Wales to join LawCare, giving additional funding in return for our helping their members. The Bar Council followed, as did several further groupings, and last January LawCare ventured into foreign territory for the first time, when the Law Societies of Ireland and the Isle of Man joined us.

Every time we take on a new group, region or profession there is new terminology to learn and changes to make, but I have been surprised at how different it has been taking on Ireland to, say, Scotland. It may only be a short ferry ride from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire, but every information pack and volunteer application pack we post costs three times as much. Telephone calls involve a string of about sixteen numbers, and I learned today that all Irish mobile numbers begin 085 or 086. Trainee solicitors serve apprenticeships before their parchment ceremony, and very few addiction treatment centres in Ireland offer detox, or accept private referrals. Then there are the names. I speak fluent Welsh (my children are called Gwenllian, Angharad and Ceridwen – or, as the spellchecker would prefer it, Gremlin, Anthrax and Crewmen) but it seems a million miles from one Celtic language to another when I try to figure out how to address someone called “Caoimhe”.

It’s good to have these new challenges, new opportunities to learn and the chance to broaden our horizons, but one thing I have learned is that lawyers are the same wherever they may be. British or Irish, lawyers struggle with impossible targets, long hours and bullying supervisors, they worry that their work isn’t as good as it could be but hate asking for help, and some have a tendency to drink too much when things become difficult. Whatever areas, professions or countries we expand into, LawCare seems to find that the problems troubling the hardworking professionals of the legal profession are the same.

LawCare’s free and confidential helpline is available 9-7.30 Monday-Friday, 10-4 weekends, on:
0800 279 6888 (Solicitors, Law Students and Legal Executives in England and Wales)
0800 279 6869 (Solicitors, Advocates and Law Students in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man)
0800 018 4299 (Barristers, Clerks and Judges in England and Wales)
1800 991801 (Solicitors in the Republic of Ireland)

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