A Lawyer’s Guide to Wellbeing and Managing Stress
£38.72, Ark Group
In recent years the legal profession in England and Wales has begun to pay increasing attention to the issue of wellbeing. The publication of Angus Lyon’s important book thus reflects a legal landscape that has changed profoundly over the past decade as more lawyers – and law students – ask questions about the interconnections between practising law, wellbeing and mental health; and what, in the words of Levit and Linder’s 2010 book The Happy Lawyer, it might mean to ‘make a good life’ in the law.
Across 10 chapters the author, a practising solicitor, psychotherapist and Lawcare volunteer, seeks to provide practical guidance on the steps lawyers can take to improve their wellbeing and manage stress in what is, for many, a demanding workplace environment.
The book begins by setting the scene for the discussion to follow, outlining what is known about stress and mental illness in law and identifying it as a particularly ‘wicked problem’. Remaining chapters are structured around three sections, entitled ‘Me’, ‘You’ and ‘Do’, the titles of which capture how the text is pitched throughout at providing support and, importantly, practical advice. Lyon considers what it might mean to be resilient in a legal career; the possibilities, and limits, of the turn towards mindfulness; and how issues of wellbeing connect to ideas about assertiveness, emotional intelligence and team-working in the law. It concludes by reviewing the ways in which lawyers might better care for their own wellbeing, address problems and deal with the inevitable demands of the job. As Lyon puts it, ‘stuff happens’. Highly effectively, a series of anonymised case studies illustrates the book’s themes by locating these issues in the context of the everyday experiences of legal professionals. The book also considers the issue of ‘prehab’, or what can be done to prevent problems arising in the first place.
It makes a major contribution to what has become an increasingly high-profile debate within the legal profession
Accessible, well-structured and practical, yet well-grounded in the research literature, A Lawyer’s Guide to Wellbeing and Managing Stress is highly recommended reading for all legal professionals. And not just practising lawyers, but also those of us engaged in legal education, training and research where heightened concern around poor law student and legal academic wellbeing can also be detected. As such, it makes a major contribution to what has become an increasingly high-profile debate within the legal profession, helping us better understand – and do something about – issues that increasingly appear to be all too common in the law and yet, so often, are not spoken of.
Richard Collier is professor of law at Newcastle Law School