THE LAW SOCIETY: WORKING FOR YOU Support Services for Practitioners ETHICS AND PRACTICE UNIT The Law Society’s Wellbeing & Resilience Guide Depressive symptoms among lawyers and law students have reached startling levels, with lawyers experiencing the highest incidence of such symptoms in comparison to other professions (Law Council of Australia website - fi nding from the 2007 Beaton Consulting and beyondblue national depression initiative). This is not something to be ashamed of or ignored. Mental health is no longer a taboo topic and with more awareness comes greater support from and for the legal profession. The Society recognises the stressful nature of legal practice and offers a number of services to assist practitioners to reduce the pressures of practice and improve their overall health and wellbeing. LawCare is a confidential service available to practitioners and members of their immediate family, as well as to law students, to assist with personal problems that may be interfering with work performance. Dr Jill is the LawCare counsellor and she can be contacted on 8110 5279 to make an appointment. Dr Jill is experienced in the treatment of social and psychological problems which may be associated with stress, alcoholism, drug abuse, gambling addiction, matrimonial difficulties, family crisis or career problems. The Society will cover the gap payments of two consultations of up to x hours per financial year. For practitioners seeking the advice of another practitioner, the Society has established the Lawyers’ Support Group. This gives practitioners access to a panel of experienced practitioners willing to assist colleagues with personal and professional problems. For young lawyers in particular, the Society together with its Young Lawyers’ Committee has established the Young Lawyers’ Support Group which is a panel of experienced practitioners who are willing to assist young lawyers who may require independent guidance. Where you are notified of a complaint having been made about you to the Legal Profession Conduct Commissioner, you can seek support from the Lawyers’ Complaint Companion Service with an hour of free advice from an experienced practitioner. The Society recognises that such a complaint can be distressing for practitioners and encourages practitioners to utilise this service to ease the psychological burden. The Society has a Wellbeing and Resilience Committee to raise awareness of issues relating to mental health and wellbeing of practitioners, including psychological distress and depression. The goal of the Committee is to educate practitioners on the services available and attempt to counteract the poor record of mental health in the profession. Another initiative of the Society, in conjunction with the Professional Standards Council and Wellbeing & Resilience Committee, has been the development of the Wellbeing and Resilience Guide which contains very useful information to achieve optimum health, particularly as it relates to legal practitioners. This is available on the Society’s website, as is the Wellbeing & Resilience programme. That programme teaches practitioners about the signs and symptoms of mental health and addiction challenges, the stigma around mental health issues with specific reference to the legal profession, treatment options and coping strategies. The programme is very insightful, with members of the profession sharing their own experiences. The Society’s Small Practice Committee organises many events throughout the year for sole practitioners and practitioners in small firms, which represent the majority of South Australian law practices. The purpose of these events is to provide practitioners with an opportunity to build and maintain systems of support. There are five Small Practice CPD & Networking Drinks held each year. Each event is free and held in different areas to accommodate as many practitioners as possible. Those events also include a half hour free CPD on Legal Ethics. There are also monthly “Coffee Breaks” held in different areas which provide opportunities for informal gatherings between practitioners. These are advertised in InBrief, the weekly e-newsletter. If you are a practitioner in a large firm and seeking outside support, you are encouraged to use the various support services offered by the Society. If you have an ethical or trust accounting query, please do not hesitate to contact the Society’s Ethics & Practice Unit on 8229 0229. The Ethics & Practice Unit has legal officers and law practice compliance investigators who are available to assist practitioners to understand and comply with their professional obligations and minimise the risk of disciplinary action. The Society’s website also has a variety of links to Wellbeing and Support resources which we encourage you to read. There is a lot of support for practitioners dealing with depressive symptoms and experiencing difficult times and the Society urges all practitioners to seek support and utilise the various services available. B 8 THE BULLETIN April 2018
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