Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Practising lawyer Hannah Beko leads agenda for wellbeing change with new book

For those in the legal profession who feel like wellbeing is not on the agenda at their firm, wellbeing consultant and practising lawyer Hannah Beko is commanding change.

The mum-of-three has penned a new book called The Authentic Lawyer which tells workers exactly how to get more from their lives and careers without working harder.

After more than two decades in the legal profession, she often wonders whether to steer her own sons away from a career in law or whether times might be changing with regards to wellbeing.

Since she realised the impact of chronic stress on her career, health and life in 2015, she became an avid researcher into the mental health of lawyers – and discovered that 95 per cent of those surveyed by the Law Society in 2015 reported suffering from moderate to severe work-related stress. At that time law was also considered to be one of the most stressful professions, above the emergency services and armed forces. 

Hannah believes that one reason for high stress levels is the huge pressure on legal professionals to deal with billing and chargeable hours targets, utilisation figures and write off explanations. 

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 – the ones law firms even hire for – include: people pleasing, being a yes person, perfectionist tendencies and similar. 

“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.”

Hannah decided to write her book about how to help other lawyers take charge of their lives and avoid the same stress she had suffered.

She believes that the reason lawyers are leaving the profession in droves is because health and wellbeing matters to them and while those practising are told wellbeing is on the agenda, the numbers of lawyers suffering is still increasing.

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.”

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