and a few more stats …
The ‘2014 UK Judicial Attitude Survey’ reported on findings covering salaried judges in England and Wales courts and UK tribunals .
The report reveals that the judiciary is experiencing an erosion of social respect and feel undervalued by government and media, and that the working conditions have deteriorated over the last five years with caseloads growing significantly in recent years.
Almost a half of the respondents (46 per cent) indicated that in their view their caseload was excessive.
A significant issue causing pressure on the judiciary is that of change.
60 per cent of judges reported that there had either been a large amount of change or that the job had changed completely in recent years.
Almost all judges in England and Wales courts and UK tribunals (87 per cent) feel the judiciary need control over changes affecting judges and 73 per cent believe too much change has been imposed on the judiciary in recent years.
Whilst most accept that change is needed within the judiciary, just over half feel that the amount of change in recent years has brought judges to “breaking point”.
When considering recruitment to the bench, the main reasons judges would encourage suitable people to apply to join the judiciary include the chance to contribute to justice being done, the challenge of the work, intellectual satisfaction and public service. However, a large number of judges said that they would no longer encourage anyone to apply to become a judge.
Financial considerations play a significant part in this view; however, other factors feature highly, including constant policy changes, lack of administrative support, the feeling of being an employee or civil servant, and the social isolation of the job.
The issue of wellbeing in the legal profession has been investigated in detail in other countries.
By way of brief example, The Brain & Mind Research Institute at the University of Sydney in Australia published a study in 2009 entitled ‘Courting the Blues: Attitudes towards depression in Australian law students and lawyers’ .
It was the first reported study of its kind in Australia and was conducted with the participation of solicitors, barristers, and law students from 13 universities.
The study revealed high levels of psychological distress and the risk of depression in the students and practising lawyers who participated when compared with Australian community norms and other tertiary student groups.
Participants revealed a number of attitudes and behaviours which implied a general reluctance to seek help for mental health issues.
- negative attitudes and stigmatising views towards mental illness;
- the view that people with mental illness are likely to be discriminated against by their employers and others;
- low levels of confidence in mental health professionals; and
- the generally low level of knowledge of issues relating to mental illness amongst a substantial proportion of the sample.
Generally these data implied a reluctance to seek help from mental health professionals.
This report was followed two years later by a detailed report by the Law Society of Western Australia looking at ways the problems could be tackled .
Many reports have been generated in the United States on these issues. (I will refer to some of the insights of these studies in other blogs from the book.)
Perhaps matters are the best summarised by Laura Rothstein, a Professor of Law at the University of Kansas who said in her 2008 report, “Although there is a great deal of research and information on these issues, it is difficult to synthesise and assess what is working”  …
 Thomas, C. (2015). 2014 UK Judicial Attitude Survey: Report of findings covering salaried judges in England & Wales courts and UK Tribunals. The Judicial Institute of University College London.
 Kelk, N. J., Luscombe, G. M., Medlow, S. & Hickie, I. B. (2009). Courting the Blues: Attitudes towards depression in Australian law students and lawyers. BMRI Monograph 2009-1, Sydney: Brain & Mind Research Institute.
 Kendall, C. (2011). Report on Psychological Distress and Depression in the Legal Profession. The Law Society of Western Australia.
 Rothstein, L. (2008). Law Students and Lawyers with Mental Health and Substance Abuse Problems: Protecting the Public and the Individual. University of Pittsburgh Review, 69, 530-565.
(This is an edited excerpt from my book A Lawyer’s Guide to Wellbeing and Managing Stress published by ARK Group in 2015.)