Mental health considerations
Legal practice can place significant stresses and pressures on lawyers. It is now widely recognised that a significant number of lawyers will experience mental health issues at some point in their career.
As the body responsible for regulation of the legal profession in Victoria, the Victorian Legal Services Board treats lawyers with mental illnesses fairly and sensitively.
The Board is not concerned with those who are effectively managing mental illness and there is no requirement to disclose in those instances. Nor is disclosure required where lawyers have mental illnesses which have no impact on their capacity to engage in legal practice.
To clarify the Board’s role, and to help encourage such lawyers to voluntarily seek appropriate treatment, the Board has published a Mental Health Policy.
Under the Legal Profession Uniform Law and the Legal Profession Uniform General Rules 2015, a lawyer’s current ability to carry out satisfactorily (or fulfil) the inherent requirements of practice as an Australian legal practitioner may be considered by the Board when granting, renewing, varying, suspending or cancelling a practising certificate. A lawyer’s current and material mental impairment may be relevant to that consideration. This is a clear reflection of the Board’s objective to provide for the protection of consumers of legal services.
Equally important, however, is the Board’s role in addressing issues of concern to the profession and to consumers of legal services.
Advice and Assistance with Mental Health Issues
There are a number of dedicated organisations and services that provide care and assistance for lawyers with mental health issues. Along with family and close friends, the following are some of the people and organisations that can play an important role in ensuring these stresses and pressures do not affect a lawyer’s capacity to engage in legal practice:
- Your health practitioner.
- BarCare and personal helpline (Tel: 03 9650 5540) – the Victorian Bar’s health crisis counseling service.
- Vic Lawyers’ Health (Tel: 1300 687 327) – providing confidential, independent 24 hour wellbeing services for LIV members.
- beyondblue (Tel: 1300 22 4636) – a national depression initiative, providing comprehensive online information on the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety and how to help someone.
- The Black Dog Institute – a not-for-profit, educational, research, clinical and community-oriented facility offering specialist expertise in depression and bipolar disorder.
- Mindscount – Formerly the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation, this organisation’s objective is to decrease work related psychological ill-health in the legal community and to promote workplace psychological health and safety.