Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Playing a Numbers Game?

Today LawCare passed a milestone – 200 case files opened so far in 2011. In real terms, that means 200 lawyers struggling with workplace stress, clinical depression, addiction to alcohol and / or drugs and a myriad of related problems, have called one of our free and confidential helplines and received assistance, advice, referral to professional help where appropriate, and ongoing support, often from one of our volunteers.

In LawCare’s first year of operation – 1997 – 60 case files were opened. Since then the number of helpline calls has risen almost every year. The result of this has meant that we, the LawCare staff, expect the numbers to continue to rise each year. We even become anxious if calls are lagging behind last year’s figure, almost as though we want to reach some imagined target.

But unlike many who work in the legal profession, we don’t have a target to reach. We’re not playing a numbers game, and we don’t have to “beat” 517 case files by the end of December in order to feel we’ve achieved something worthwhile. There are several reasons for this.

  • We have little to no control over who calls the helpline. Whilst we do all we can to publicise our service, it’s a very personal and difficult decision for a suffering lawyer to seek help. We cannot “drum up trade” by encouraging people to call if they don’t want to.

  • In addition, we have no control over the issues that cause lawyers to need to phone us. From changes in practice rules to difficulty getting PI Insurance, many of the issues which cause stress and anxiety are part of the professional world. When things are going well we will naturally have fewer calls. Our helpline call numbers peaked at the height of the recession when 25% of calls we received were from lawyers facing redundancy.

  • The statistics for our website also came in today. Over 500 people a day are looking at www.lawcare.org.uk. Many of them may be seeking help and support with issues which are troubling them, and, due to finding it anonymously on our website, do not need to call the helpline.

  • In the first half of this year we have given preventative education training to over 2,000 lawyers. Our most popular seminar is called “Stress Recognition and Management” and aims to teach professionals to cope with the stress they experience at work. Since LawCare began doing this training in 2004, over 32,000 lawyers have had this training, so that’s potentially 32,000 people who have been equipped to handle the issues most often raised on our helpline and who will thus will not need to phone for help.

  • We don’t want lawyers to struggle or suffer stress. We don’t want them to turn to alcohol or drugs. Each of our case files is a person feeling such distress and despair that they need help to cope. One of my first tasks of each day is to read through the previous day’s case files. It’s not a task I enjoy - many callers are in desperate circumstances, and reading through their files can be sad and frustrating. If we have a target at all, it is to have fewer calls and website accesses, because that would mean that fewer people are going through difficulties.

Somehow, though, I suspect the number of helpline calls will continue to rise. And whilst we’d like not to be needed, we’re here when we are.

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)
1800 303145 (Barristers in the Republic of Ireland)

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