There is much in the press about wellbeing at work and toxic workplace cultures, particularly in law firms where the pressures are high, and targets need to be achieved. I have shared some of my personal struggles with mental health in posts on Linked In. The high number of comments, reactions and shares of those posts shows the sheer numbers of lawyers who are struggling.
Greens is a specialist firm which offers services solely in family law, public law children cases and criminal law. These are areas of law where our clients are going through some of the most stressful periods in their lives. It is challenging for our team from our receptionist to Executive Director to manage the emotions of our clients which can vary from anger, hopelessness, and fear to relief at the end of the case when the issue is resolved. We offer Legal Aid for private family law cases to eligible clients and often those are the most difficult and sad cases, as to be eligible for legal aid there is a domestic abuse requirement. Without saying too much about the pressure Legal Aid lawyers are under to even make a living due to the low hourly rates we can charge, Greens remains committed to being there for the people who need legal help most. This is in a legal landscape where fewer and fewer firms offer legal aid at all.
At Greens we ensure that every client feels valued and that their legal needs are met, we do not differentiate between Legally Aided or Private clients with every private family law fee earner carrying a caseload of both types of matters. We have a team approach so clients will know that if their main point of contact is unavailable, there is someone else who can deal with their query. To do this effectively it is vital that our team takes care of itself. We are fortunate that Greens is an environment where staff are encouraged to pursue outside interests and take time each day to breathe.
One of the small but effective ways that our team is guaranteed a break in the day is our practice that we do not eat lunch at our desks. Without exception in every other office I have worked it is a common sight to see people tapping a keyboard or reading emails or documents with a sandwich in hand at lunch time. It may seem like a very small thing, but I can say that since I have rejoined the team after a 6-year absence this is one of the key things which forces me away from my desk and its demands, for fresh air at lunchtime and a chance to spend time away from emails and the phone.
It is always tempting to skip lunch or eat on the hop when we are busy. At Greens we find this counterproductive. It is when lawyers are tired that mistakes or poor judgment calls are made. Even 20 minutes at lunchtime can make all the difference.
I’m pleased to say that as well as the small things such as eating away from our desks Greens also ensures its employees feel valued. Examples I have seen are the ‘Employee of the Month’ initiative which singles out the employee’s contributions to the ethos of the firm (not just their chargeable time), a mandatory and enjoyable training morning for all staff on the impact of menopause which started conversations about diversity and psychological safety at work and a personal welcome card and gift on joining.
I have seen much on social media about wellbeing and the money being put into it by many law firms. What makes the Green’s approach different is that we care not just about our clients but also each other and do not need an initiative to make change as we are already working in a happy and healthy environment.