The proportion of trainees who have experienced mental health problems has more than doubled in the last year, a survey has found, as junior lawyers continue to report severe levels of stress.

In its 2018 resilience and wellbeing survey, the Law Society’s Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) found that 39% of trainees reported suffering from mental health problems, up from 19% last year. Among the division’s members as a whole, 38% of respondents said they had experienced mental health problems in the past year, up from 26% last time. 

This year’s survey was completed by 959 people, compared with 214 last year, the first year of the exercise. The division’s members include solicitors with up to five years’ PQE, trainees and students. More than a quarter of respondents worked at a firm based in the City of London. 

Kayleigh Leonie

Kayleigh Leonie

Kayleigh Leonie, Law Society council member for junior lawyers, said: ‘It is clear that negative stress and mental ill-health continue to adversely affect junior lawyers in the profession. The legal profession is at risk of losing some of its best talent if employers do not begin to embrace their employees’ wellbeing as a key asset for their business.’

The survey also revealed that 90% of respondents had experienced stress in their role and that 26% of those experienced severe/extreme levels of stress, a figure unchanged from last year.

High workload, and client demands and expectations were the most commonly selected causes of stress. In last year’s survey, stress was most commonly linked to ‘nearly making a mistake that would not have happened otherwise’, but this year respondents said stress was more likely lead to problems with family life and relationships.

A large majority of respondents (83%) thought their employer could do more to provide help, guidance and support in relation stress at work. But four out of ten did not know if their employer provided any help.

The report will be discussed during the JLD’s annual conference tomorrow.

Earlier this year, the JLD published guidance in which it said law firms should consider appointing a 'mental health first aider’ or wellbeing champions and mentors to ensure employees are not suffering from stress or ill-health at work.