Stressed and depressed young solicitors – is it worth it?

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Do aspiring solicitors really know what they’re letting themselves in for? A recent survey reveals a high number of solicitors seeking help with depression and alcohol addiction problems.
The inference that can reasonably be drawn from this is clear: attaining the ultimate goal of qualification will probably bring a whole new set of problems to the young solicitor. According to the annual report from the charity LawCare, the most common causes of stress include disciplinary proceedings, financial problems and bullying.
Legal practice can be intensely stressful (although this often depends on the practice area), can rob a person of his or her social life, create a serious imbalance in work-life balance and be marked by long hours and levels of billable hours that are increasingly difficult to achieve.
Today’s would-be solicitors are battling economic constraints resulting from a global recession combined with rising tuition fees and professional course fees. Throw in the perennial lack of training contracts and the outlook is bleak, and only the best and the toughest will eventually qualify.
But if these talented and tenacious aspiring lawyers weather the storm and win the ultimate prize of being admitted to the Roll of Solicitors they should, in theory, have a reasonable chance of coping with the stresses that legal practice will undoubtedly bring.
LawCare’s report is not good news for law students, trainee solicitors or young solicitors, and it should sound a warning bell for the Law Society which should ask itself: “What can we do about this?” Last year, it was suggested that nearly a quarter of associate solicitors planned to leave the profession by the same time in 2011. Whether this is happening will eventually become apparent.
But the urgent message to the profession today is clear: something needs to be done before the profession loses vital young talent.
And the message to all aspiring solicitors is clear: qualifying does not guarantee a pain free future as a solicitor.

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