MOSAIC stands for Mentoring Opportunities Amongst In-house Counsel and is the global mentoring programme for in-house legal professionals. Our fourth and final post on mentoring looks at mental wellbeing in the legal profession and considers how having a mentor, or being one, can help emotional health and mental wellbeing.
MOSAIC tackles mental wellbeing in the in-house legal profession head on. To understand what we mean by this please watch our short video. We show this video wherever we go to talk about MOSAIC and the benefits of mentoring because it speaks for itself. The video resonates with most viewers, either because they have been there themselves or know a colleague or friend who has been there.
There is a crisis of wellbeing in our profession: we are experiencing higher rates of stress, anxiety, addiction and mental health issues than ever before and collectively we need to do something about it.
Tackling the long hours culture
All lawyers wear the long hours and the stress of the job as a badge of honour. Fear of looking weak, being judged or harming career progression are all motivators for people to put their own wellbeing to one side as they plough on and get through another day. The irony is that we spend millions collectively on grooming, beauty, gym memberships, organic food and expensive supplements so that we can look good on the outside.
There’s a perception that it’s ok to take time off for illnesses with symptoms that manifest themselves externally, but no one talks about the time taken off due to stress or anxiety. More importantly, we avoid talking about how more experienced generations should be setting a precedent of self-care for younger generations. By brushing these issues under the carpet, we are perpetuating a very harmful cycle.
Earlier this year, the Law Society published its Junior Lawyers Division Survey of Resilience and Wellbeing Survey 2019, which researched levels of negative stress and mental ill health experienced by junior lawyers (defined as paralegals, trainees and solicitors with up to five years post-qualification experience). 1800 respondents answered the survey and the questionnaire tackled two specific questions: ability to cope and stress levels.
The results are unsurprising. For most respondents, being stressed in our profession has become the norm. It is almost considered a rite of passage, particularly for trainees and young lawyers earning their stripes. 77% of respondents thought their employers could be doing more to provide help, guidance or support in relation to stress. Notwithstanding all the new wellness programmes being rolled out in corporate culture, this report provides a loud and clear call to action for employers to do much more to address the issue.
Where MOSAIC can help
This is where MOSAIC can and is helping. MOSAIC is unique in that it gives people in the in-house legal profession the opportunity to come together through mentoring to support each other in a way that hasn’t been available before. Many people find their own mentors through luck, good timing or sheer tenacity. However, many more simply haven’t had those opportunities.
We created MOSAIC to increase the opportunities for more people to become mentors or mentees so that no-one feels left-out. MOSAIC aims to create a community that provides a sense of connectedness and support with people who understand the pressures of the job because they have been there and get it, all in a confidential setting. According to Mind.org, talking to people who have been through similar challenges can:
- Help you to talk about what you are feeling and experiencing.
- Help you share suggestions for coping techniques and support options.
- Introduce you to ideas and approaches that have been helpful to others.
- Reassure you that you’re not the only person who has felt like this.
- Increase your self-esteem and confidence over time.
- Provide a sense of belonging to a community of people with similar experiences.
- Give you a safety net to turn to at difficult times.
- Help you feel more empowered about your own wellbeing.
Mentoring relationships are a two-way street
We have found through feedback from our mentors that it’s not just the mentees who are walking away feeling better. The impact of mentoring is two-way. Mentors feel an enormous sense of personal fulfillment that goes beyond the day job by supporting and having a positive impact on someone’s day-to-day life. It allows mentors to give back in a way that has true meaning and is incredibly satisfying. The unintended impact was neatly summed up by one mentor who said:
“Hearing myself say those words made me realise I should be taking my own advice.”
We are not setting out to be therapists with MOSAIC, but there is plenty of scientific data that shows that just talking about a problem diminishes stress levels, provides a different viewpoint that helps people work through a scenario and reduces the feeling of isolation. Having someone to talk things through is a powerful antidote to the challenges that can often be felt working in the in-house legal profession.
If you would like to seek further professional information on any of the issues addressed in this article, visit the Law Society’s website. For further information, see Practice note, Mental health, stress and wellbeing in the legal profession: an introduction.
Becoming a member of MOSAIC
To become a member of MOSAIC you must work in-house and not in a law firm. In-house means the legal departments of private and publicly held companies, as well as government and regulatory agencies. You can be a qualified solicitor, barrister or attorney, a patent or trade mark attorney, work in legal operations, compliance, the company secretariat or be a former lawyer who now runs your own business. Trainees or apprentices doing their training contracts in-house are also eligible to join.
We charge a small annual membership fee (free to mentors) to cover costs and develop and expand the programme. We don’t hog your inbox with a mailing list, instead follow MOSAIC on LinkedIn for announcements and our latest news. For further information, contact email@example.com or visit our website.