President’s Report – October
HEALTH AND WELLBEING
Mental Health Week falls between 8 and 15 October, with ‘Act-Belong-Commit’ and a focus on suicide prevention as the official theme, so it is appropriate that this issue of Brief focuses on health and wellbeing.
Members of the legal profession are more likely than many other professional groups to be affected by the pressures that arise in the workplace or in family life. A significant body of research evidences that legal practitioners and law students are at significant risk of depression, with competitive work cultures and a focus on perfectionism being just some of the contributing factors. Whether our profession attracts people who have a predilection for depression or whether our professional culture is causative is not clear, and I would suggest not important. Either way there are elements of our professional culture that can exacerbate or act as a trigger for depression and our focus needs to be on these concerns.
In 2011, the Society produced its Report on Psychological Distress and Depression in the Legal Profession, through which we sought to understand and formulate responses to mental health and wellbeing issues in our profession. Following that Report, the Society’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Committee was established and has since assisted in the implementation of that Report’s recommendations.
In 2015 the Council asked the Society’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Committee to undertake a review of the recommendations in the 2011 Report considering those recommendations current relevance and effectiveness. Other work being done around the country was also considered. It appears that we have done much to raise awareness of the issues and help to reduce the unnecessary stigma associated with mental health issues. However, all of the available evidence shows that the prevalence of mental health and wellbeing issues remains high and these are the focus of the new recommendations, which the Society will now focus on. These will again be reviewed in 2020. You can find these under the ‘Resources and Guidelines’ section of the Society’s website.
For further research into wellbeing in the legal profession, please see Causes and Consequences of Work Related Psychosocial Risk Exposure by Dr Rebecca Michalak, which can be found online at psychsafeconsulting.com.au.
Mental Health Week is a pertinent reminder that we can all contribute to a more positive atmosphere within our profession and the wider community. We know that words matter – they are our daily currency – and it costs us nothing to be kind and respectful in our dealings with other people, be they clients or colleagues.
LawCare WA provides a range of initiatives by the Society to support the mental health and wellbeing of our members. The service includes professional, confidential and free counselling and information services.
LawCare WA is provided by Optum, an international organisation with their main focus on employment wellbeing. As a member of the Society you have complimentary access to a comprehensive range of online resources and information. You can find out more at lawsocietywa.asn.au/lawcare. Remember, members of the Society are eligible to access a range of services through LawCare WA including:
- Face-to-Face Counselling
- Telephone Counselling
- Ask the Psychologist
- Manager Hotline Online
SOCIETY’S RESPONSE TO WLWA 20TH ANNIVERSARY REVIEW OF 1994 CHIEF JUSTICE’S GENDER BIAS TASKFORCE REVIEW
In September 2014, Women Lawyers of Western Australia (WLWA) issued the 20th Anniversary Review of the 1994 Report of the Chief Justice’s Taskforce on Gender Bias, which contained a number of recommendations that look to the Society to either implement or help the profession in doing so.
In October 2014, the Society’s Council resolved to prepare a Directions Paper in response. The Directions Paper has now been finalised and approved by the Society’s Council for implementation. For further information, please refer to the Your Voice at Work section of Brief directly opposite this President’s Report.
Thank you to everyone who attended the Gala Dinner on Friday, 9 September, hosted by the Society and the Western Australian Bar Association. We were joined by almost 500 guests, including representatives from the Law Council of Australia, who were in Perth for the quarterly directors meetings over Friday, 9 September and Saturday, 10 September.
The Hon Wayne Martin AC presented a very engaging and enjoyable address reflecting on his 10 years of service as Chief Justice of Western Australia. You will find the speech reproduced in full in this issue of Brief.
A comprehensive review of the Gala Dinner and photos of the night are also included in this issue. Please visit facebook.com/LawSocietyWA for more photos of the evening’s festivities.
Nominations for election to the Society’s 2017 Council will open on 4 October 2016. Nomination forms will be sent out electronically, with nominations closing on 20 October 2016.
I encourage any member who is considering putting their name forward for the Society’s Council to please do so. The Society benefits greatly from being able to draw upon the skill and knowledge of a Council that is representative of as broad a cross-section of the legal profession as possible.
Please join us on Thursday, 20 October 2016 from 5.30pm for Society Club, the Society’s regular social and networking event, which is complimentary for members. For the first time, the event will be held in the elegant surrounds of The Penthouse at The Western Australian Club.
October’s Society Club is hosted by the Society’s Indigenous Legal Issues Committee. The Committee was formed with the purpose of encouraging, supporting and advancing Aboriginal lawyers, law graduates and law students, as well as communicating with the legal profession and broader community on issues of importance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
This is an excellent opportunity to meet members of the Committee, catch up with colleagues and make new connections whilst enjoying an evening of drinks and canapés.
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING – 25 OCTOBER
A reminder that the Society’s Annual General Meeting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, 25 October 2016, commencing at 5.15pm, at the offices of Herbert Smith Freehills, Level 36, QV1 Building, 250 St Georges Terrace, Perth.
END OF YEAR CELEBRATION – SAVE THE DATE – 7 DECEMBER
Be sure to keep the evening of Wednesday, 7 December free for the Society’s End of Year Celebration at Lamont’s Bishop’s House, Perth. Further details will be available in due course.