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Supporting the mental well-being of legal professionals: National Well-being Study seeks to promote a heathy and sustainable practice of law

Supporting the mental well-being of legal professionals: National Well-being Study seeks to promote a heathy and sustainable practice of law

By: Teresa Donnelly, Treasurer | June 14, 2021

Update: The National Well-being Study of legal professionals has been extended to August 30. 

One of the highlights of serving as Treasurer of the Law Society Ontario is being able to shine a light on causes that are important to the well-being of legal professionals. I’ve previously used this blog and my platform as Treasurer to speak about the mental health and well-being of the professions and want to continue that very important conversation.

Research shows that legal professionals are almost twice as likely to experience mental health issues like anxiety, stress depression and addiction as the general population. As legal professionals, we often face situations that can be stressful in nature; whether it’s preparing for licensing exams, meeting high-pressure deadlines or even assisting clients who are in the throws of a life-altering event or trauma. It’s only human that we carry those experiences with us. For many, these challenges have multiplied as a result of the pandemic, leaving some of us feeling isolated, overwhelmed, and anxious. These conversations about mental health and well-being are more relevant than ever.   

I am proud that the Law Society of Ontario has recently partnered with law societies across the country in support of the first-ever National Well-Being Study dedicated to understanding and promoting a healthy and sustainable practice of law in Canada.

Launched last week and administered by Dr. Nathalie Cadieux of the Université de Sherbrooke, the study is a collaborative initiative of all law societies in Canada, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the Canadian Bar Association. 

In Ontario, researchers have asked the following legal professionals to participate in an anonymous and confidential study questionnaire:

  • All lawyers and paralegals, including those who are presently unemployed, on leave and who have retired or stopped working in law in the past year;
  • Articling candidates who are working in any capacity, including private practice, public sector, university or college, etc.;
  • Experiential learning candidates who completed the Law Practice Program at Ryerson, the Programme de pratique du droit at the University of Ottawa or the Integrated Practice Curriculum program at Lakehead University in 2021.

The questionnaire will be active until August 30, 2021. It will take between 30-45 minutes to complete and can be completed in one session or multiple sessions. The questionnaire will automatically save responses, allowing participants to close their browser and later resume the session where they left off by simply clicking on the survey link again. Once the last question in the survey is answered, responses will be automatically submitted.
All responses are anonymous and will remain strictly confidential. Only the research team will have access to data in aggregate form.

While the questionnaire wraps up on August 30, this is just phase one of the study. In phase two, the research team will conduct interviews with legal professionals to explore differences by province and territory. This is the first study of legal professionals that is national in scope. With such a large pool of data, researchers have the opportunity to better understand the issues that affect the mental health and well-being of legal professionals and law societies will be better equipped with evidence-based recommendations.

A link to the survey was sent to all eligible participants on June 7 and is also available through the LSO Portal.  You can learn more by watching this short video from lead researcher, Dr. Nathalie Cadieux. 

Again, I encourage all eligible legal professionals to please take the time to complete the study questionnaire. Together, we can help break the stigma around mental illness and pave the way to better understanding and care for those facing mental health challenges.

I want to close with a reminder that if you are struggling with mental well-being, you are not alone. The Law Society has supports available for lawyers, paralegals, law students, licensing candidates and judges in Ontario, as well as eligible family members, through the Member Assistance Program or MAP.

MAP provides licensees with personal access to a full range of professional, confidential services, including counselling, peer-to-peer support, crisis management services, substance abuse counselling, lifestyle and specialty counselling, as well as interactive online resources and peer resource tools.

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