Salary Survey: Stress

In 2014, Lawyer 2B ran a stress survey. With more than 500 responses, it sparked a good deal of debate about mental wellbeing in the profession.

This salary survey took the opportunity to ask the questions again, but on a much larger scale. The results confirm many of the findings of the previous study, but with a greater level of detail.

By far the chief cause of stress in the legal profession is having too much work and too little time to do it in, with two-thirds of respondents suffering from this affliction (by contrast, only 13.2 per cent of respondents cited ‘not enough work’ as a problem – the dark days of 2009 are long over).

Some considerable distance behind, the second-most common cause of stress is ‘work affecting personal life’, cited by just over a third of respondents. Around a quarter of those surveyed cited ‘overly demanding clients’, ‘poor management’ and ‘lack of resources’ as stressful issues.

The differences in what causes stress in men and women are interesting. The survey gave 14 possible causes of stress. There were no great discrepancies between men and women in the majority of them. For example, 65.4 per cent of men said that ‘too much work and too little time to do it in’ was a cause of stress, compared to 67.3 per cent of women – a difference of less than two per cent. Likewise, 33.7 per cent of men and 34.5 per cent of women said ‘work affecting their personal life’ was a cause of stress – a difference of 0.8 per cent.

Despite these relatively small margins, a higher proportion of women than men felt stressed in 12 of the 14 categories named by the survey.

The only two categories where men experienced more stress than women were ‘competition to get ahead at the firm’ (a concern for 12.7 per cent of males and 12.1 per cent of females) and ‘red tape or bureaucracy’ (which was a cause of stress for 19.9 per cent of males and 15.7 per cent of females).

There were three ‘causes of stress’ categories, however, where a significantly larger percentage of women than men expressed concern. Interestingly, all three related to more senior personnel within the firm.

The first category was ‘difficult or unpleasant superiors’. Some 23 per cent of women cited this as a cause of stress, compared with 18.4 per cent of men – a difference of 4.6 per cent.

The second category was ‘poor top-level management’, with 28.9 per cent of women saying this was a cause of stress compared with 24 per cent of men – a difference of 4.9 per cent.

The third category was ‘lack of support or pastoral supervision’. Here, 18.7 per cent of women said this was a cause of stress compared with just 13.7 per cent of men.

Taken in the round, these results are revealing, although they are open to various interpretations. For example, the news that a higher proportion of women feel they lack support from above may be a reflection of a comparative lack of female role models, or it may simply indicate that women are more desirous of support while men are happy to go it alone.

There is greater awareness of the problem of stress in the profession than there used to be and an increasing number of firms are introducing policies to help combat it. Around a third of respondents were aware of stress policies and initiatives in their organisation. A further third said their firm had no such initiatives, while the final third didn’t know.

Salary Survey Stress Graph

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