2022 National Wellness Study – Introduction: A Troubling Picture
In December 2022, the Université de Sherbrooke, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the Canadian Bar Association published the report on The National Study on the Psychological Health Determinants of Legal Professionals in Canada. This report is Phase I of the National Wellness Study.
The data analyzed in the report comes from a national survey conducted between 2020-2022 on the wellness of legal professionals in Canada. More than 7,300 legal professionals from all jurisdictions – lawyers, Quebec notaries, Ontario paralegals and articling students – participated in the survey.
The study’s authors have now launched Phase II of the study, which will involve qualitative interviews with legal professionals to explore differences by province and territory. Phase II is expected to conclude in 2024.
The National Wellness Study report paints a troubling picture of the wellness of Canadian legal professionals. Its key findings include that more than half of all respondents reported experiencing psychological distress and burnout and that the billable hours model negatively impacts mental health.
Some of the main findings include:
– nearly three quarters of legal professionals who have practiced for less than 3 years experience psychological distress;
– women are more affected than men by all the mental health issues identified in the study, but age/experience has more of an impact than gender;
– work–life conflict is a critical stressor, is just as prevalent among legal professionals with children as those without children, and is prevalent among both men and women (45.4% v. 53.9%); and
– legal professionals living with a disability and legal professionals from other equity-seeking groups (Indigenous, ethnicized, LGBTQ2S+) experience higher levels of mental health concerns.
While some of these issues are not new to the profession, the report places emphasis on the negative effect COVID-19 has had on mental health and overall wellness. Regardless of our lifestyle, each of our lives have drastically changed since 2020. The unique circumstances caused by the pandemic have increased mental health issues across the country and within the legal profession.
The report, which spans over 300 pages, covers various topics including the effect of working conditions on mental health, wellness amongst ethnicized groups, and substance abuse. In this series, we will summarize key sections of the report and provide commentary which may be of interest to lawyers in Canada who self-identify as women.
Over the next eight months, we will be highlighting key findings of the report. The purpose of this series is to summarize the information so that it is more accessible, and to increase awareness regarding key findings. We will cover topics such as technostress and the dark side of billable hours.
Make sure you tune into LiL’s social media channels to stay up to date on future posts in this series! If you have any suggestions or wish to contribute, please get in touch with Grace Smyth-Bolland or Karina Alibhai.
About the Authors
Karina Alibhai is an associate with Harper Grey LLP and works with their Commercial Litigation and Construction Groups. Karina joined Harper Grey as an articling student in 2020, completed her articles with the firm and was called to the BC bar in 2021. She received her bachelor’s degree, from McGill University in 2017, where she focused her studies on International Development. Karina attended law school at Thompson Rivers University and graduated in 2020.
Grace Smyth-Bolland is an associate with Harper Grey LLP and works with their Business Law Group. Grace joined Harper Grey as an articling student in 2021, completed her articles with the firm and was called to the BC bar in 2022. She completed her law and philosophy degrees at Adelaide University in 2015 and 2016. Grace immigrated to Canada from Australia in 2017 after spending some time in South America, the US, and the Middle East.