Thursday, 12 March 2009

The Value of Volunteers

I may have mentioned before that LawCare is a very small team. Hilary is our Chief Executive, and she is the only full-time member of staff. Ann, Trish and Mary manage the helplines between them, and for five hours a day I do all the admin. - sending out information, putting together statistics, keeping the website up to date, and writing blogs.

As I write this it is mid-March and we have just opened our 115th case file for this year. Think about that for a moment. That’s over a hundred lawyers who, in just the last three months, have felt so distressed and despairing that they have called our helpline and asked us to support them. Many of them are suffering from clinical depression, several have been through some really tough and traumatic experiences. A fair few are drinking so much that they are starting to realise that they are alcoholic – and in many cases their wives, friends or colleagues have already called us, because they realised the individual was an alcoholic several months ago. In addition we have received several calls from ongoing cases from last year.

Ann, Trish and Mary each work 2½ days a week. If you’re sharp, you’ll be wondering how they manage to arrange counselling, treatment, and necessary support for all these people with so little time. And how, indeed, do they find the time to call all these people back week after week to check their progress, offer encouragement, look for warning signs and see what other support is needed?

The answer is that they are aided by 140 wonderful volunteers; lawyers across the UK and Ireland who have been through difficult times themselves, or who have a particular desire to help others, and willingly offer to help those who call us. The volunteers offer one-to-one support, friendship, and often the benefit of their experience. They also help me to keep case files up to date, and it is always good to have a report from a volunteer in which they detail the help they have given the person, and tell us that everything is now fine and that person has made a complete recovery or at least is enjoying a period of stability.

Whilst all we require of a volunteer is that they make regular contact with the person, several have gone the extra mile:

  • I heard recently from a volunteer supporting a particularly vulnerable solicitor. She phones her every morning to help her find the strength she needs to go through the day. She has been doing this for over a year, but is enjoying seeing the progress made.
  • We had one case where a volunteer, while talking to the incapacitated lawyer he was supporting, noticed a throwaway comment that there was no food in the cupboards. The volunteer paid for an online grocery delivery to be made to that person the next day.
  • One volunteer who was supporting an alcoholic lawyer drove him to the treatment centre, giving up his weekend to drive from London to Scarborough, just to be certain that he arrived safely.

Our volunteers are amazing, and they make all the difference. We couldn’t do it without them. Could you be a LawCare volunteer? Call 01268 771333 for more information, or go to

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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