THE ADVOCATE 689
VOL. 80 PART 5 SEPTEMBER 2022
ship of new advocates. But it also strengthens the junior’s sense of purpose
and value. While money is important to lawyers, doing satisfying and meaningful
work, feeling part of a team and feeling personally valued and
respected are essential to retaining good people. In my experience, good
barristers cared about and respected the mental and physical health of
everyone they worked with. Unfortunately, the high-stakes, high-pressure
nature of legal work today is making it increasingly common that the mental
health and well-being of young lawyers is regarded as an expendable sacrifice
for the good of the client or the firm.
3. Give lawyers an opportunity to disconnect
I apologize for reverting to the “good old days”, because in many ways
they were not so good. But when I started practice, from about 1976 until
e-mail became common in the early 1990s, you could generally go home at
night and not expect to receive phone calls or messages from work, unless
something was urgent, like the office was on fire or a client had a real emergency.
The same was true on weekends. You could go home on Friday afternoon
or evening and reasonably expect that no one would bother
you—neither a lawyer nor a client—until Monday morning.
That did not mean we did not work evenings or weekends—we did, when
necessary—but it did mean that except during trials, evenings and weekends
could be times for R & R, family times and “me” times. And holidays
were actually holidays—you could go away for two or three or four weeks
and colleagues would cover for you.
You know the situation today much better than I do. There is essentially
no division between the workday and the personal or family day. Clients,
bosses and other lawyers think nothing about sending e-mails or making
phone calls after hours (if there is such a thing), in the middle of the night
or on weekends.
If firms had a mental health policy, could the policy include a moratorium
on phone calls and e-mails and other communications after 6 p.m. and
on weekends, except in emergencies?18 Wouldn’t this be a relief to everyone,
including more senior lawyers? What it would require is planning ahead,
realistically assessing what is urgent and setting practical deadlines.
Respecting your staff’s “downtime”, their “right to disconnect”, will go a long
way to making them feel respected and appreciated and will improve their
The pandemic seems to have exacerbated intrusions on downtime. While
the blurring of lines between home and work has allowed us to avoid long
commutes or fulfill childcare and elder care responsibilities more easily,
the time saved seems to have been swallowed up by work. Indeed, many lit-