Burnout is a ghost haunting the legal profession - triSearch

Burnout is a ghost haunting the legal profession

That’s the verdict of Queensland Law Society chief executive Matt Dunn, who is profiled in the next edition of Australian Conveyancer.

The newly appointed CEO talked about QLS plans including more practical business help for lawyers – as well as sharing his thoughts on emerging issues, such as artificial intelligence, cyber security and anti-money laundering.

Tackling the topic of Burnout that was the subject of our special report in AC9, Matt said: “Burnout and the broader concept of well-being and mental health is the ghost haunting the legal profession – not just in Queensland, but across the across the country.

“It’s an issue which has suffered from being a bit too taboo. Lawyers like to get everything right.

“They like to do a good job and they like to be seen to be successful and always doing well. But the reality of life is that’s not always the way it goes.

While most law societies have great EAP services, with well-being programs, not everyone feels comfortable admitting there’s a need for help, he says.

“Sometimes there’s a sunk cost theory where they say ‘I’ve done all of this. I just need to keep doing this ridiculous amount of work for the next three months or next few weeks and it’ll get better. We’ll get through and it’ll be easier and you get to the end of the six weeks or three months and it’s not any easier.

“Eventually somebody ends up tipping off the end of the precipice and just can’t do it anymore.”

Meeting deadlines, getting documents done, meeting client expectations met all take their toll.

Noting a legal career is a very long race, like an ultra-marathon, he highlighted the support services available to help with advice and counselling.

He said: “At the Practice Advisory Service up here in Queensland we’ve got two fabulously experienced lawyers who run their own firms who do confidential visits with practitioners to just talk about what’s worrying them, what’s concerning them, how is it going.

“A lot of those discussions help people fit everything in and make sure it’s not just focusing on the work which is going to result in the burnout. They talk about trying to get the right balance.

“Sometimes it might be as simple as getting a locum in to come and do some of that extra work for two to three weeks – just to lessen the burden.”

Lookout for our in-depth Q&A with Matt in next week’s monthly edition of Australian Conveyancer where we have a special report on the suburbs absorbing the country’s record population growth.

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