Wellbeing week: 24th – 30th June 2024

The Department of Health & Social Care define wellbeing as “feeling good and functioning well and comprises an individual’s experience of their life, and a comparison of life circumstances with social norms and values”.

I’ve always said that the moment a family lawyer has something happening in their personal life, their day-to-day role becomes even more difficult to manage. Whilst our area of work is a difficult one as we’re dealing with people’s personal lives, this I think can be said for anyone in any role.

I’ve found myself in these situations, where I wasn’t feeling great, and I wasn’t functioning well, contrary to the definition above.

Can we really be the best family lawyers for our clients if our wellbeing is suffering?

Much of our role is to deliver advice that our clients may not wish to hear, we have difficult conversations when our clients are emotional and of course we’re discussing highly emotive areas.

Some of the comments from clients that have stuck with me over the years are ‘I counted on you’, ‘I thought you said you could help me’, ‘this is all too much as you’re adding to the stress of it all’.

Thankfully, these were all heat of the moment comments and the client’s apologised and I ‘took it on the chin’, but that was probably because I was feeling ok on those days. If I wasn’t, comments such as this could have a real impact on one’s wellbeing.

We all have pressure points and when our work is so complex and challenging, we’re managing our case load, targets, other members of staff etc, how do we prioritise our mental health and wellbeing to ensure that the scales don’t imbalance, and wellbeing spirals?

For me, I turn to my colleagues. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of having a supportive, caring and like-minded team. We talk, not just about our cases but how we are feeling. We support one another and notice when someone is not feeling themselves.

I have unfortunately experienced having unsupportive colleagues throughout my career and this has a damaging impact.

During our weekly team meetings we discuss our case load, challenging cases we’ve had that week, and whether there is anything we can do to support one another. We encourage one another to take breaks or book annual leave when needed and actually switch off and ignore the emails. We can do this, because we all cover one another’s cases and know we’re all on the same page in terms of our advice, approach and we all respect one another’s decisions made on cases. That way, we can all switch off and prioritise our wellbeing when needed, retuning fresh and re-charged.

Well-being is so very important for us as individuals but the knock-on impact to our client’s is equally as important. When we’re coping well, we can provide our clients with clear advice, allow ourselves the time we need to spend on their cases, manage our days productively and close the laptop after a day’s work, knowing our clients feel valued, have had sound, measured advice and have clarity. We can then allow ourselves to take the evening to unwind and look after ourselves and our loved ones.

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