THE ADVOCATE 687
VOL. 80 PART 5 SEPTEMBER 2022
As a profession, we can only benefit from these lessons if we create an
environment that welcomes candid conversations about mental health—
discussions in which we see someone’s struggle with mental health not as
a liability, but as an experience that provides knowledge on brain health
and an example of perseverance relevant to the profession. None of us is
immune to the pressures of litigation. Talking about mental health candidly
and learning from the experience of others help us all to face challenges
and be better, more supportive colleagues.
Talking about mental health must be accompanied by action to improve
workplace functioning and the well-being of legal professionals. We must
recognize that, yes, people do need rest, time away and exercise, but they
cannot get it unless the firm makes space for them. Institute a regular and
confidential check-up by a more senior lawyer for each associate to ensure
that they are getting a fair share of the work—not too much or too little. Be
prepared to adjust or re-assign work to ensure that it is shared appropriately.
Examine billable hour targets and count hours for non-billable work
such as mentoring, business development, CPD and committee work
within the target. Have a mental health policy and a mental health committee
and give it the authority it needs to change the workplace culture, fight
stigma and provide confidential peer support, as well as the resources to get
the job done.
I will comment later in this piece about some of the advice typically
given to young lawyers about maintaining good mental health—sufficient
sleep, moderate exercise, a healthy diet, time with family and friends, mentorship,
inclusion, engagement, civility, trust and respect for colleagues.
Accommodating these needs is not a tall order. If a law firm had a mental
health committee, with real responsibility and accountability for making
these things possible, what a culture change it could accomplish!
2. Get serious about mentoring
In my discussion of practice issues with lawyers—young and old—a common
message is that “we are not getting enough mentoring”. My colleagues
at the Court of Appeal and in the trial courts have observed this as well.
Some newer lawyers with obvious intellectual and forensic capacities
would clearly benefit from the wisdom and practical advice that only a
mentor can give. Unfortunately, the economics of law and the increasingly
frenetic pace at which lawyers operate has seen mentoring relegated to a
Mentoring, so vital to the nourishment of young litigators, has been in
decline for years. It has been further diminished by a loss of connection and
the inadequacies of “virtual teamwork” during the pandemic. You are more