Can you hear the smallest violin in the world playing?

That was someone’s response the other week when I mentioned that it’s hard for partners and supervisors in law firms these days.

Bit harsh, I thought!

I was attempting to make two points.

One, that in the movement in recent years to improve lawyers’ well-being, the emphasis has been (quite rightly) on juniors.

But it’s been a bit too binary for my liking. And a bit too individualistic.

Because if we really want the culture in law to change, we need to focus on *team well-being* not just that of individuals.

That means looking at communication, management skills, expectation management. Throughout teams.

It means that it’s not just about teaching our juniors about boundaries (or, my preference, ‘limitations’). It’s about thinking about how all the cogs in the machine of a team work together. So, yes let’s all learn how to communicate our needs better. But let’s also talk about how those needs have a knock on effect on others in the team. And let’s talk about how we can attempt to reconcile everyone’s needs. That’s the difficult bit. If we avoid it, we’ll never make any real headway with well-being.

Yes, in an ideal world, we’d all be able to leave the office at 5:30pm. But we don’t live in an ideal world (right now). And we need to be able to have hard conversations about the fact that, at certain times, one person leaving at 5:30pm, has an impact on the other members of the team.

Before people start chucking rotten apples at me, I’m not saying juniors shouldn’t be able to leave on time. But I am saying it’s a good idea to responsibilise everyone by talking about the tensions between people’s different needs. It’s about being honest.

Because in some firms, in their efforts to improve wellbeing of juniors, the stress has not disappeared; it’s been squeezed upwards. So the senior and managing associates and partners are feeling more of the strain.

Second, it’s really hard for seniors in law firms to get mental health initiatives right.

To be more precise, it’s hard to get it right for *enough people* for what you’re doing to be deemed to be a ‘success’.

Because actually there is no one size fits all when it comes to mental health.

Some people want you to ask them how they are.

For others, that might feel intrusive in the workplace.

And, if you have management responsibility for them, it’s extra complicated because, for a whole host of reasons, you might be absolutely the last person they want to talk to about their mental health.

The point really is to make sure you’re present. Available and on hand (something that’s been made much more complicated by the rise in remote working).

And that when initiatives are trialled, feedback is sought (and listened to) as to whether they’re really hitting the spot.

What do you think? Do you have zero sympathy for partners in law firms? Or does some of what I’m saying resonate? Let me know…

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