The Foundation is continuing to make significant progress in its ‘Raise the standard’ campaign which was launched in Law Week.

The Foundation has joined forces with legal organisations, law firms and individuals to create the ‘Best Practice Guidelines for the Legal Profession’; a set of voluntary industry guidelines that help guide legal organisations and workplaces as they work with their colleagues and employees to ensure that lawyers and legal staff receive the most effective professional and personal support in their workplace environment.

The aim is to have guidelines created and available by the end of the year. These Best Practice Guidelines build on work done in Canada by the Canadian Standards Association, operating as CSA Group (CSA), and the Bureau de Normalisation du Québec (BNQ), with the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC). The Guidelines will be the first adapted to the legal profession and will be suggesting activities to ensure well-being at work within a matrix: basic – standard – advanced – best practice. This will allow a plan for continuous improvement to be made by firms and individual practitioners as they think about how to proceed to the next level.

The committee working on the Guidelines has become involved with work being conducted by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in launching a first-of-its-kind national survey to shed new light on how law firm culture contributes to lawyer stress and depression.

The Health and Well-being Survey of Australian Lawyers, which is supported by the Law Council of Australia, will be the first “systematic study” of the legal culture and practice of Australian barristers and solicitors, as reported in Lawyers Weekly.

This survey, conducted by UNSW, will start to produce results by the end of August and provide a comprehensive basis for informing the creation of the best practice guidelines. In future years it will be possible to conduct further research in tracking progress of the legal profession and measuring the impact of guidelines, possibly through a Canadian survey developed around the factors reflected in the guidelines.

The key aims of the UNSW survey are to identify risk factors and causes of work stress in different types of practice and locations, assess the influence of workplace cultures and practises on stress levels, and inform senior management at law firms regarding appropriate policies to deal with stress and depression. It will provide both quantitative and qualitative information through a mixed-method approach (questionnaires, interviews and documents) that examines the relationships between legal culture, work stress and professional practice.

For further information on the UNSW survey please visit https://www.law.unsw.edu.au/wellbeing.

For submissions and/or suggestions for the ‘TJMF Psychological Wellbeing: Best Practice Guidelines for the Legal Profession’, please send an email to [email protected].