After realising the impact of chronic stress on her legal career, health and life, Hannah Beko started researching the mental health of lawyers.
The mum-of-three and practising lawyer discovered that 95 per cent of those surveyed by the Law Society in 2015 reported suffering from moderate to severe work-related stress – a time when law was considered more stressful than the emergency services.
Hannah Beko, who is currently working in a new role as head of mission for Legal Studio solicitors, believes that the main cause for high stress levels in the industry is the pressure to deal with billing and chargeable hours targets, utilisation figures and write off explanations.
In her new book The Authentic Lawyer, Hannah tells workers exactly how to get more from their lives and careers without working harder.
After more than 20 years in the legal profession, she still debates whether to steer her sons away from a career in law or whether times might be changing with regards to wellbeing.
She said: “I didn’t develop chronic stress as an employed lawyer. I was self-employed with no time recording, and no set targets. Very often my coaching clients who are looking for more work life balance, admit it’s not their firms asking them to work long hours, they have trouble switching off and calling it a day. The work is never done.
“Character traits that tend to bring us into law include people pleasing, being a ‘yes’ person and perfection. These sorts of personalities have a higher likelihood of succumbing to stress and ultimately burnout. Especially combined with a profession who saw finishing on time, taking your holidays, resting and recuperating, as laziness or a demonstration of a lack of commitment.”
She believes that the reason so many lawyers are leaving the industry is due to health and wellbeing, despite being told wellbeing is ‘on the agenda’.
Secondly, she blames management buy-in because if those higher up continue to prioritise the billing and client work, those they are a role model to, will do the same.
“We need to start investing in our people and understanding what support they need, then providing it,” Hannah added. “Not only is it the right thing to do, to look after our people, but happy lawyers are more productive lawyers and even provide a better customer service.”