Membership of the legal profession is often viewed as a very privileged position to be in, both by those who are currently in it, as well as those on the outside. This is because it is a great place to work – full of brilliant minds, exciting opportunities and the most fascinating and challenging of projects. However, it is also a high pressure environment and one in which many find themselves struggling to cope with all the usual societal pressures of debt, family, growing older, as well as the law-specific billing targets, case management and having a responsibility for influencing the course of people’s lives. It is to provide support for those within the legal profession when times get a little tough that legal charities exist.
Whilst most of us blindly go through life assuming that ‘it won’t me be’ the statistics relating to the legal profession reflect the highly stressful place that it is. In 2011, the charity LawCare published research that showed that 15-24% of lawyers suffer from alcoholism at some point in their careers – not just one glass too many at a client function, but clinical alcoholism. The same charity released figures last year that found that a fifth of lawyers were suffering from clinical depression or another type of mental illness, whether or not they had admitted it to family or colleagues. From these numbers – and for anyone who has ever worked with the typical gruelling deadlines and heavy responsibilities in law – it’s clear that there is plenty of potential for those in the legal profession to end up snapping on the wheel, whether or not it is acceptable to admit it.
Legal charities such as SBA The Solicitors’ Charity, The Barristers’ Benevolent Association, LawCare, The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives Benevolent Fund, The Institute of Barristers’ Clerks Benevolent Fund and The United Law Clerks’ Society provide essential support to all those in the legal profession, whether solicitors, barristers or clerks, who need help either in financial terms or in dealing with something like depression, alcoholism, bereavement, disability or divorce. They essentially offer a safety net under those life events that most of us dread and few of us can handle with the kind of unemotional, practical strength that we wish we could. However, these charities need funds and, particularly in the current economic environment, these are often fairly hard to come by.
The Legal Charities Garden Party is an annual event that aims to highlight the valuable work that these charities do, as well as to raise crucial funds to make sure that they keep going as long as they are needed. The Garden Party began in 1968 and takes place in the leafy surroundings of Lincoln’s Inn with more than a thousand guests enjoying some light refreshments and a catch up with others in the profession – and all for a great cause. The proceeds go to the six charities named above, keeping open a key source of funding so that these organisations can go on ensuring there is support for legal professionals and their dependants for years to come.
The 2013 Garden Party takes place on Thursday 20th June (6-9pm) on the North Lawn of Lincoln’s Inn. Buy your tickets here.
This blog first appeared on Roll on Friday on 10th May 2013