Elizabeth also reveals how the support that people sought through LawCare was affected by the pandemic, and how workplaces are changing to better support and retain people.
LawCare is an independent charity offering emotional support, information and training to the legal community in the UK.
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Scott Brown (00:02):
Hi, and welcome to Lessons I Learned in Law with me, Scott Brown, founder of Heriot Brown In-House Legal Recruitment. On each episode of the podcast. You get to hear my conversation with someone from the legal profession who'll share their three key lessons that they've learned for the working in law. This week, my guest today I'm joined by Elizabeth Rimmer. Hi Elizabeth. Thanks for joining me.
Elizabeth Rimmer (00:28):
Hi Scott. I'm really pleased to be here.
Scott Brown (00:30):
Great to have you. Elizabeth is Chief Executive of LawCare here which is a mental health and wellbeing charity for the legal community. And I'm really excited to learn more about the charity that Elizabeth's involved in. She's also a former lawyer. She practiced in clinical negligence and worked, worked at Lee day in, in a prior life. So I'll be keen to hear more about that as well, and our transition from, from law into our current role.
Elizabeth, thanks for, thanks for joining us. We'll just jump straight into lesson one if you don't mind.
Elizabeth Rimmer (01:18):
So my first lesson around law, which I, I really reflected on when you, when in preparation for this session was really around. I think sometimes the law doesn't always deliver what clients are looking for, or perhaps as lawyers, we don't recognize their wider needs than just solving a legal problem. So when I was a clinical negligence, solicitor, what you often found is people came to see you because they wanted answers to what had happened in a hospital or medical setting that had led to a loved one, a child, a family member being either seriously injured and sometimes dying as a result of clinical negligence or a mistake that had been made with their medical care. And what they really wanted was they wanted to know why that had happened. And they wanted somebody to say, “I'm sorry this happened”. And actually what I found was that the process didn't really deliver that for people because clinical negligence litigation is really about financially compensating people for loss.
Elizabeth Rimmer (02:24):
And, you know, you can never financially compensate somebody for the loss of a child or the loss of their ability to work, or, you know, the loss of, of, of some, the legacy of something that's gone wrong. And, and I found that quite challenging. And I don't think that we are prepared enough in legal education and training for the sort of wider role of what it means to be a lawyer. And, you know, you would have people literally turning up with a carrier bag full of their medical notes that they had managed to get themselves. And they just wanted to understand what had happened. And, and you can understand from the, the clinical side that the medical profession feel threatened and frightened when something's gone wrong and it's like the shutters come down and nobody will speak to patients. It may be different. Now this is back in the nineties. So I think it's, it's recognizing the, the wider role that legal professionals have in not just delivering legal services and applying the law to situations or problems and solving them for clients. But it's also that role of trusted advisor, confident. Sometimes you play the role of a counselor. You are a listening ear, you're sort of a vessel often for what people are bringing to you in a, in a wider sense. So that, that sort of was a lesson for me.
Scott Brown (04:00):
And did you, when did you, when did you sort of first realize that you weren't equipped for that or you felt ill equipped for it?
Elizabeth Rimmer (04:08):
Pretty early on. I think when my after I qualified the partner that I worked for went off on secondment to Lord Wolf who at that time was doing a big review of the rules of civil procedure. And so she was off ‘wolfing’ as she called it. And I was a newly qualified solicitor left with these very high value claims of clinical negligence. She was a, a leading practitioner pioneer in the field. And, you know, I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking, you know, ‘I'm not equipped to handle this. The, I feel like I have the weight of responsibility of delivering justice or answers for our clients and, you know, I, who am I to be able to do that kind of thing’. So I was having a massive case of imposter syndrome, but I also found it really emotionally difficult to listen to people's really challenging stories about babies dying or children being left injured, or husbands dying on the operating table.
Elizabeth Rimmer (05:20):
And I, all of that really quite hard because behind every story, you know, there was a real life human situation. And I didn't, I didn't see my role then. And I guess it isn't really, but I didn't see my, I didn't see, I didn't have the skill set to really handle that and be able to stand how to provide the sort of support people were looking for, or perhaps I didn't see that, that, that really wasn't my role to provide that. I found that difficult and I thought, you know, I really wanted to do clinical negligence work and I landed up thinking ‘a lifetime, a career of this is gonna be really hard for me’, maybe I over empathized. Or I don't know if you can over empathize. I wasn't able to compartmentalize it, I guess I wasn't equipped to handle the, a sort of emotional impact of that.
Elizabeth Rimmer (06:26):
It's quite sort of challenging because you, you weren't really, you know, most cases that we had are nearly a all of them. I don't think I had a single trial while I was in practice cases would settle before they got to trial. So you would never have inverted commas ‘the day in court’ where you would have an opportunity to question those professionals and understand what had happened. There was rarely an admission of liability, even if they admitted you know, that they would settle the claim. So you weren't always getting everything for people. And then you felt the case would conclude and people were left having to unravel and deal with a matter that may have been going on for four or five years before it concluded. Meanwhile, they, they haven't really been able to get on with their lives or process what they've been through. And so I sort of felt a sense that off they would go. And from our perspective, that was the end of our role that you would be left wondering, ‘well, how are they going to move forward from this’? I think the process, I think it's a much quicker now, but I found that then I thought it took way too long to settle all these claims. Yeah. And people have this hanging over them drags all the time. It does it drags on.
Scott Brown (07:49):
I mean, it's hard to imagine anyone that could be emotionally prepared to do that job and, and take on shoulder that, like you said, if you have the empathy, then you're going to carry it with you. It's, it's very challenging. It's, it's something that I've got no, no experience of on the, on the legal side and, and not, not an area that we, that, that we focus on recruiting. It is something you've looked at on the criminal side as well. I often wonder, like how does, how does a criminal lawyer compartmentalize things? The word you used is, is yeah, it's, it's it's real life.
Elizabeth Rimmer (08:31):
And I think all law is real life, you know, in most circumstances, law is a distress per purchase. Isn't it people aren't voluntarily coming to see law. They're usually coming to see, to see lawyers to not necessarily with distress, but you know, it's about sorting out something that needs to be fixed. It may be a procedural thing, like buying a house, it could be very traumatic, like a family breakup or clinical negligence. And then it could also be, you know, even in commercial work, there's a lot of high emotion in, if you are doing a large merger or a buyout or floating a company there's a lot of pressure and expectations to meet shareholder in interests. Your client's interests. So there's a lot of emotion in that as well. And I, and I think my general lesson was I feel, feel as legal professionals we are not trained sufficiently enough to handle or understand the emotional impact of the work. And law is highly emotive, but we just don't recognize that.
Scott Brown (09:39):
Yeah. And where do you think that lawyers could be trained in that area?
Elizabeth Rimmer (09:46):
Well, I, I think it's part of legal education. There could be more around tying it in with sort of professional skills element. You know, when you think about what, what skills employers are looking for from legal professionals they call it the soft skills. I wouldn't say they're soft skills at all. They're just human skills of, you know, empathy, trust, judgment communication. Law is all about relationships, making relationships with clients, your colleagues, the other side. So knowing how to understand and get on with people and see where they're coming from and see their perspective, I think is really important. So I think more emphasis on the value of those skills and giving people the opportunity in the early part of their training and careers to develop those skills is important. I think also a recognition that understanding your own psyche, so to speak and, and how people work is a useful tool to have in legal work.
Elizabeth Rimmer (10:50):
I think it would reduce a lot of the highly, stressful situations. Sometimes people fall themselves in it's often reactionary to other people's behaviors is try to put that in perspective and understand it might make you feel ‘okay, this wasn't, they're not reacting to me personally, they're reacting to this situation in front of them. This is because someone is angry or sad or frustrated and, and this is how I can move it on’. So I think, yeah, I think there should be more in legal, formal legal education, the vocational stage of the training, but also for solicitors during their training contracts much more around the, the sort of human skills you need in the legal workplace, which I think increasingly are going to become, if they're not ready almost as important, if not more important than your legal skills, there's a lot more technology and software and AI programs to help you with the law. You know, not knowing the law isn't necessarily a problem. You can always look that up or talk to somebody about it, but knowing how to handle a situation and judge it and, and make a call on something - that's a big part of being a lawyer. And I know that a lot of that comes with experience, but I think we could be doing more to recognize those skills that come with doing legal work.
Scott Brown (12:22):
Yeah. And I think the more and more, everything goes towards technology and AI those soft skills are like you said, human skills are the things that are gonna set us apart as, as individuals and lawyers to, to really, to really bring to life what we're advising on or, or, or discussing
Elizabeth Rimmer (12:43):
Exactly. Cause no, no client is gonna wanna come in and look at an AI program and think ‘that's, what's handling my legal case’. They wanna look a lawyer in the eye or their professional in the eye and think this person's got my back. I trust them. I know they're gonna make a, they're gonna advise me well. And they may be behind the scenes using technology and all that stuff to help them. But it's actually that relationship with another person, which is what I think the, if you wanna call it, there are lots of advantages of, of technology. But I think perhaps brings, as you say, a greater recognition of the human aspect of what we do.
Scott Brown (13:22):
So you ultimately, you left law then what was the kicker for that? What made you you leave practice?
Elizabeth Rimmer (13:31):
Well I think sort of a recognition that I was, I was finding the emotional side of it quite challenging. And I was beginning to wonder if I really wanted to be a lawyer because you know, like many people, I think I came into the legal profession, really feeling, you know, I would be here to right wrongs, uphold the rule of law you know, sort of solve miscarriages of justice and able people to get access, to resolving issues for them where they may not have been able to. And I think I realized that the reality of that is, that's not really always the case, even working in the kind of environment that I was in and that I worked in at Leigh Day, which do lots of pioneering work around people's rights and being able to enforce those. And I, but I think it was really around the emotional side.
Elizabeth Rimmer (14:26):
And I just thought, I'm not sure this is for me. So I decided always thinking like a lawyer, ‘oh, I'll just take a year out and I'll do an MA in Medical Law and Ethics. So if I decide, I want to go back to the law, it'll still look good on my CV, because it's related to my area of practice and I'll just take a year out and have a think about it’. And so that's what I did. And then while I was literally just about to start my ma a friend of mine got me a job working in a charity where her mother was the chair. So it was pure nepotism, just sort of being the administrator for this International Alzheimer's charity. By this time I had a mortgage, you know, I'd borrowed some money for covering myself while I was doing my MA, my dad paid the tuition fees for me and you know, I needed a job.
Elizabeth Rimmer (15:24):
And so I took this job and then the, the person who ran the organization, he collapsed one day at work. And he, he didn't come back and looking back on it I now realize he was a very stressed individual and had come from the world of banking, into working in a charity sector. And he was under a lot of strain, which I was sort of aware of when I first started working there anyway, he collapsed, he fainted and he didn't come back. And so I was then sort of left holding the ropes. And then they asked me if I wanted to stay. And by this time I had pretty much decided I was gonna go back to the law. And then a friend had set up, had gone to another firm and was setting up a new clinical negligence team and she'd said, ‘oh, do you wanna come and work here?’
Elizabeth Rimmer (16:21):
And I said, ‘oh, that sounds like a good idea’. And then but then, you know, then I started thinking about it and I thought, well, I really like because I had an international upbringing. And I thought, I really like being in this international and for environment, it's very different. I was doing a lot of traveling. Well I knew I'd have the opportunity for travel. I really liked the people. I really felt there was a lot of purpose and what we did around trying to raise awareness about dementia and the impact that it has on families and encourage support for people. So I thought, ‘oh, well, you know what, the path not taken, I'm just gonna stay’. But it wasn't by design. You know, I had never intended to land up working in a non-legal role and then I landed up staying there for 10 years. So it, a lot of it was by chance really. Yeah, that's how that happened.
Scott Brown (17:13):
It's sometimes, sometimes the best, the best opportunity. So you just have to be open to what's what's coming, coming down the road.
Elizabeth Rimmer (17:21):
Mm. I think that's right.
Scott Brown (17:26):
You mentioned your, your international upbringing, so you're your, your accent is quite, quite difficult to place, but you mentioned an international upbringing. Where did you travel?
Elizabeth Rimmer (17:49):
Yeah. well I was, I was born in England. I was born in London and my parents are British, but I didn't live here really until I was almost 16. I grew up in East and West Pakistan as it was then back in the sixties now, Pakistan and Bangladesh, then Libya, we lived in Canada, the US, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago. And I went to school wherever we lived. I would've originally been born in what is now Bangladesh, but there was a war going on between India and Pakistan and my Mum at 8 months pregnant was evacuated and sent home and that's why I was born in London.
So otherwise I would've been born there. So I never grew up here. And, and then moved back to, to England when I was part way through my O levels. So my last year of, of that, and then I've obviously been here ever since, but I've been here a long time now: 40 years, but I still have a bit of an accent. Wherever we lived, my dad was a civil engineer. I went to school wherever we lived, so yeah. I didn't go to boarding school or anything like that.
Scott Brown (19:10):
Right, Excellent. Interesting upbringing. Good passport at that stage.
Elizabeth Rimmer (19:18):
Yeah. Very good passport. And I, and I think, you know, it's interesting. I recently met someone who lives here, who has lived all over the place with her kids and I never knew this term existed, but children that grow up in other countries like I did, were known as third culture kids. You find it hard to identify with one single culture, including your own because you haven't, you know, when I came back to England, the big thing for me at school coming back, kids, I hadn't watched the same telly as everybody else. So, you know, when you think about the things people talk about, I was completely, you know, I hadn't watched loads of things like Morcambe and Wise, and I don't know the sitcoms and television that everybody was watching were unknown to me.
Elizabeth Rimmer (20:08):
I'd grown up on a diet of American television pretty much because that's what was exported in the places that we lived. So I didn't have the same social references as other people. And so it can take a while to sort of adapt to that. And I think it makes you somebody that wants to always join in and put your hand up as a, a way of- you wanna in the group, because you wanna have someone to sit with at lunch, you know, you don’t wanna be on the person on your own. So you are always trying to put yourself forward to get into things. So you are not the person on the sidelines. And apparently that's a common trait in, but I never knew any of that until relatively recently.
Elizabeth Rimmer (20:50):
I've never heard of it before.
Scott Brown (20:51):
Yeah. I've never heard. I've never heard that. It makes, yeah, it makes, makes a lot of sense when you break it down like that. Good life skill, I think.
Elizabeth Rimmer (20:59):
Yeah, I think so
Scott Brown (20:59):
Adaptability and yeah. Being a cultural chameleon.
Elizabeth Rimmer (21:06):
Yeah. I that's a good expression. I think that's it. Yeah.
Scott Brown (21:12):
We’ll move on to lesson two, Elizabeth, if you don't mind sharing?
Elizabeth Rimmer (21:17):
So my lesson two is really around mistakes and I think we have a big challenge in the law that are response to mistakes generally is fear and blame and perhaps driven by the perfectionist tendencies within law. That sense that there's no room for error - also because of the weight of responsibility that if, if you do get some things wrong, it could have pretty significant consequences for your client. And I think that often then leads to people being frightened of admitting mistakes or speaking up about them. And I don't think we generally have a good culture where people feel psychologically safe to admit that they've made a mistake.
So, you know, we've seen the recent spate of cases of junior solicitors in England and Wales. Who've been struck off for lying and covering up mistakes that they've made. And just this week, we've had the case of Claire Matthews who was struck off a couple of years ago for leaving a briefcase on a train.
Elizabeth Rimmer (22:27):
And that's now been - that decision's been reversed and she's going to be reinstated to the profession. But I think partly from my own learnings as when I worked at the international Alzheimer's charity Alzheimers Disease International, I accidentally transferred 50,000 us dollars to our Indian Alzheimers a society rather than $5,000 because they were organizing a conference and it was some money towards all of that. And because it was jet down to the exchange rate and all the zeros, and I felt absolutely ill that I had transferred 10 times more of money than I was meant to. And I remember having to phone up my treasurer, who was, this was an American charity, but it was based in London. And he was in the states and tell him that I had done this because I knew we were gonna have trouble getting the money back, which we did.
Elizabeth Rimmer (23:26):
It took a year to get it back because I think our colleagues in India were quite pleased to have a significant large injection of cash into their bank account where they could then claim some interest on that, which is fair enough. But with all this sort of red tape took a long time to get it back and having to call him and say, you know, I've done this. And at the time, not even sure we would get the money back. So, but I felt quite ill about having to make that call. But obviously you have to, I felt that I had to tell him ethically I could not, I couldn't pretend that I hadn't done this because it would be visible on the bank accounts. And then I felt so much better after talking to him. And I think, you know, we've all made lots of mistakes.
Elizabeth Rimmer (24:13):
So that was a sort of administrative error that I made, but it really taught me a lesson, which was that, you know, no matter what you've done, you need to be able to tell somebody a about it. And now, now certainly with all colleagues that I've worked with, I always say right at the beginning, when someone new starts, you know, no matter what you do, even if you send, you know, an email that was ranting about something, but you accidentally send it to the entire board. Or you send, you know, you, you make a do something, just tell me, don't sit on it and pretend, try and cover it up or ignore it and hope it'll go away because it won't because if you've, if you've made a mistake, that's worrying you and you don't address it, it's only going to get worse. And we hear that all the time at LawCare, we get calls from legal professionals.
Elizabeth Rimmer (25:05):
Who've made mistakes, you know, 10 years ago that they're still worried about and living with that is really difficult. And I, and I think we need to be doing a much better job in law of recognizing that there will not be a legal professional in the country who has not made a mistake at some point in their legal careers, some more significant than others, but everybody does because we're human beings. So I think that was a big lesson for me. And I'm pleased in a way I learned that early on. And I think in law, if you have made an error, then speaking up about it – 9 times out of 10 it probably it can be fixed with no significant consequences. If it can't be fixed, then you notify. If there's gonna be a financial penalty, you know, the earlier you notify insurers or possibly regulators the better.
Elizabeth Rimmer (26:13):
And if it's a financial concern, you know, the firm's gonna have to pay out some money. Well then the insurance picks that up. But these things happen and, and dealing with them earlier, we all, we all know that we just don't do it. In the moment there's a panic. You know, and you've seen so many cases just of, of, you know, legal professionals, recent ones of, you know, changing the dates on emails or letters to make it look like they were sent out earlier than they had been. And, and that's you, those sorts of things are normally happening because people are under pressure. They're feeling overwhelmed, they get into a panic. And so I think a, a culture in law where we start being more honest about our mistakes and that they do happen and taking an approach, which is about trying to understand what happened and why it happened. So then you can stop it from happening in the future is where we ought to be at, rather than blaming people and creating a culture of fear around it.
Scott Brown (27:24):
I think it's a great lesson. But a simple one, but like you said, people often don't own it. A problem. A problem shared, right, is a problem halved and being able to be able to nip it in the bud, it doesn't, doesn't escalate and cause undue stress, like you said.
So I'm really keen to hear more. And I know our listeners will be really keen to hear more about LawCare because we were, we were talking before we started recording… I'm just really surprised about how under promoted or, or I think there's probably a lack of awareness of it as an organization. So could you just give us a, an overview of what the, the organization does and, and your involvement in that?
Elizabeth Rimmer (28:11):
Yeah, sure. So law care is as you mentioned at the beginning, we're a charity, they support mental wellbeing across the legal profession in the UK, Channel Islands and The Isle of man. And we really have two main roles and we've been going for 25 years. It's our 25th anniversary this year. And we are funded by the professional bodies, but we're independent of them. But our two main roles, one is around providing support. So for people who are struggling with personal professional issue, that's concerning them. They, they can contact us on our help line, which is telephone, email or web chat - Monday to Friday. And talk to somebody who's worked in the law and has an understanding about what this environment's like and have an opportunity to talk through a concern, get some emotional support and sort of work out steps they may need to take to resolve whatever's concerning them.
Elizabeth Rimmer (29:09):
So we don't have a magic wand where we can wave it and, and problems disappear. But what we can do is help people recognize where they're at and where they need to get to. And so we do that through our support and then the other part of our work is really around prevention and educate and wanting to shift the culture in law. You know, we don't want to just be pulling people out of the river when they're drowning. We wanna stop them falling in that river in the first place. So we want to do more around a recognition that this isn't just an individual problem, because there's been a focus I think, to, to look at individuals and say, ‘well, maybe you're not cut out for the law. You're not tough enough. We'll send you on some resilience training and then, you know, put you straight back into the same system you were working in before’.
Elizabeth Rimmer (29:58):
Actually we need to be looking at working practices and culture in law because that's, what's undermining people's mental health and wellbeing. And we did a large study last year called life in the law, which we published in September ’21 - the largest study of mental wellbeing in the legal profession and in the UK. And not surprisingly, we found that working practices in the law, the long hours, the work intensity are undermining mental health and that legal professionals are at significant risk of burnout. They were above the, the cutoff point for risk of burnout. So it, I think what it tells us is we've got some real opportunities to start thinking about how things, how we do things is differently to create better environments for people in the law. So that's really what we're we're around and you can find out more about us. Our website really is the portal to, to everything that we do.
Elizabeth Rimmer (30:55):
We have a podcast, we have blogs, articles, resources for individuals, resources for firms, everyththing is tailored for people working in the legal profession. And you know, in the 25 years that we've been around, we've listened to over 10,000 people in the law, talk about their life in the law. So we, we really do get it, you know, we understand it. And we just wish more people knew that we were here, it's free, it's independent. And it's not just for people who are legally qualified also for people that work in other roles within the legal sector. So you may be in HR or business services, you may be training a paralegal, we're here to support anybody in the legal profession.
Scott Brown (31:38):
Yeah. Awesome. It's great work you guys are doing. And, like I said, under, under publicized, so we'll definitely be shouting, shouting about it.
How did you come to get involved in that? Cuz you were obviously within working within the charity space at Alzheimers and, and then came 360 back into, into the legal profession.
Elizabeth Rimmer (32:02):
Yeah, so I, so after I left law and I did my MA and I was at Alzheimers Disease International for 10 years, then I had three years off because I had a baby when I was nearly 40 and decided that work wasn't for me anymore, went back to work when he was six months old and resigned three months later when I had to get on a plane and go to Korea and I thought, ‘this is crazy. You know, I'm 40 years old, I'm lucky to have a baby and I've left him at home with my mum and my husband while I go to the other side of the world for three days, not glamorous travel, you know, sitting in 55 G at the back of the plane. And I just got on this plane and burst into tears and thought, this is just gonna kill me.’
Elizabeth Rimmer (32:46):
And it did because I came back exhausted. And after that trip I resigned and I thought, I'm not doing this I'm I, I need to, I'm fortunate to have had this child and I wanna make the most of this time. So I jacked my job in right. And then was gonna be quite happily, never go back to work again, because I really got into being at home and having a whole new life of baby groups and all that kind of stuff. Getting to know my neighbors, you know, I'd lived in London for years and I really didn't know anyone in my neighborhood, but suddenly I did. And then my husband said, I think it's about the time you went back to work. And I went ‘Really? Why?’ You know, I started a mother and baby group, I'd got on the board of the, of the flats that we lived in.
Elizabeth Rimmer (33:29):
I was involved in that and I sort of had a full time job being the, I think it was the company secretary actually in doing all that kind of stuff. And I think he realised that maybe I needed to have something else. So anyway, so I went back. So I, I, before I came to LawCare, I went to work for a group psychoanalytic organization. It's called the Institute of Group Analysis, which is a training and membership body for group psychoanalysts in the UK. So I worked there for four years and then that, that was a tough role. I learned a lot from that job. I don't think I was well suited to that environment and decided it was time for me to move on and just saw the job advertised for LawCare literally first day I decided to start looking for a job and I looked at the role description and thought, ‘oh, well, if that isn't me, I dunno who it is’.
Elizabeth Rimmer (34:29):
Yeah. because they wanted someone with legal experience, a lawyer, someone who'd worked in small mental health charity, all kinds of, and I thought ‘I've gotta be the, I have to be in the running for this’. Well, I didn't know. It was very maybe I was getting ahead of myself anyway. I applied for that job. Anyway, I applied and I got it. So I was thrilled. So then I came back. Yeah. I've been at LawCare seven years. So great. That's how I came to be here and it's great to be back in legal profession and see how much it's changed, but also to be in it, but not having to do it. Yeah.
Scott Brown (35:05):
You know, that's how I feel.
Elizabeth Rimmer (35:08):
Yeah. Yeah. Well, there are a lot of ex lawyers out there who do all kinds of other things. Oh no. So yeah,
Scott Brown (35:16):
Yeah, yeah. It's not, it's definitely not a limiter being a lawyer. It's yeah. It's it's but right. Bright people. So it's great. And, and what are the, how, how is, how is the pandemic, how's the lockdown imagine that's impacted massively on LawCare and the support you're giving to people.
Elizabeth Rimmer (35:37):
Yeah. So we saw in 2020, the first year of the pandemic the contacts we had about anxiety more than doubled which was interesting to us cuz it, we hadn't quite realized until we were sort of crunching the numbers. So it was, as you would fact. So we saw in that first year an increase in calls around anxiety the early stages, the pandemic, lots of calls around working from home, social isolation fear of getting COVID and, and all, all kinds of things. But time’s moved on. I think during 2020 and 2021, probably about one in three of our calls had a COVID related element to them. That's sort of tapered off now. And I think, I think the pandemic, those had as, as, as grim as it's been, I think there've been some really positive in impact of, of COVID for the legal profession in terms of the way we work in that prior to March 20, 20 many people, I think in the law wanted a more flexible approach to work the opportunity to work from home.
Elizabeth Rimmer (36:53):
There's a strong presenteeism culture in the law and I think it, it was often hard for people to get that time at home that that horse is bolted now. And so now the questions is around how we're gonna manage hybrid workplaces. Those firms that are being more flexible are probably going to be the ones that are going to attract and retain people. You know, you, you've gotta offer a Smorgasbord board now of, of working styles to your employees. There isn't one size that fits all. And you know, you have a bunch of people over here who can't wait to get back into the office all the time. You have a bunch of people who quite happily never go in again. And then you've got most people in the middle who want a bit of a mix. So I, I think that's been a positive outcome.
Elizabeth Rimmer (37:39):
And also the recognition that I think it's bumped mental health higher up the agenda because people have had to speak up and share things about themselves and their circumstances that they may never have done prior. And I think it's facilitated in some workplace is more open and honest conversations and people have had a shared experience. You know, I think in the, you know, there was lots of, certainly in the first year, I mean, now we're used to it, but in April, may of 2020, when we were in that hard lockdown and we, you know, working life and everything happened at home, you know, we, I think saw insight into other people, you would see colleagues in their kitchens, you know, their kids walking behind them. You know, you saw a, a more human side of people through all of that. We all got a window into other people's lives.
Elizabeth Rimmer (38:34):
Now you have more of the blurring of the backgrounds and less of the cameras switched on because we're sort of perhaps moved on from that. But so I, I think it's, and it's given us given I think many people, a real opportunity to reflect on what they want from work, what they want from life what it is that makes them happy. And, you know, so I think we're in this period of big change and transition and legal employers are really going to have to stay on top of that because what will happen is people are gonna go to the organizations that offer them the working styles and environment that they want. And if you are too rigid about it, I think you'll lose people.
Scott Brown (39:20):
We certainly see a lot of that is the, the conversations we have with people, candidates and clients alike have massively moved forward since three years ago. It's, it's, it's a lot around what the, the one environment is like and expectations and what they're doing for work life balance and diversity and men, mental health and support around that. So I think it's forced people to manage better as well. I don't think because you said we're not trained as lawyers with that on that emotional side. I think the same goes for managing as well - it is always at a later it's an afterthought training someone to be a manager. And so I think the pandemic brought that to the fore as well, like managing the softer issues. Absolutely. so, so hopefully that that's a good thing across, across the board, but great. We'll just, we'll just jump back to your third lesson if that's okay. Elizabeth,
Elizabeth Rimmer (40:18):
So, oh yeah. So my third lesson, I think I've already touched on this a bit really right. Was about sort of keeping an open mind to opportunities. And I think often, you know, I guess law is changing, but you know, I think people see law perhaps almost like a vocation and a profession that you you go into and you're gonna stay in and a bit like teaching or medicine. World of work has changed. Young people coming into the workplace now are probably gonna work for 50 years. So many of them are probably not going to remain legal professionals for 50 years. I think maybe that those days have changed a little bit. So I think it's always being open to new opportunities, but also being brave enough to think if, if this isn't working for me, if I'm not happy where I'm at, I don't feel I'm in the right place where I belong is, is having an honest conversation with yourself about that and thinking, well, maybe I need to be somewhere else.
Elizabeth Rimmer (41:24):
And it's easier said than done. Maybe it's about another practice area of law or maybe it's moving out of law altogether. But always just sort of having that open mind about things that, that may come your way and not closing yourself off to that and soldiering on in something, because perhaps you feel you need to meet other people's expectations. You know, particularly we get lots of calls at law care from younger people in the profession who are unhappy feel it's not for them, but they don't feel they can give it up because they feel they'll be letting their parents down. Their parents are proud that they are the first lawyer in the family, or they may be the first person in the family that went to university and to understand, you know, how proud their families feel about them and, and all of that.
Elizabeth Rimmer (42:18):
But at the end of the day, it's your life. And if, if it's not for you and you’re not happy, then I think it's really important to move on. And I think from my perspective, you know, I had some doubts about the law. I did science to begin then did the old conversion course landed up a lawyer, then left the law, landed up in the charity sector. And none of that was by design. It just happened. Because I was just confronted with decisions at each stage of my life, where I was thinking, ‘Hmm, this isn't right’. So I, I, I think that's really, I think it's important and, and that when you are in a war workplace, I think from my experience at LawCare and what we've learned is it's really important to be in an environment where you feel you belong, you are valued and respected.
Elizabeth Rimmer (43:06):
The work you're doing aligns with things that matter to you because these, these are the things that make us happy and you know, we only have one life. So I think, I think we hear too many stories from too many people in our profession who aren't happy but feel trapped and unable to move on. And you've got immensely transferable skills as a, as a legal professional. Or, you know, you specialise mainly in placing people in house, a move to a different environment, a move to a different firm. All of those things might make a difference, but don't feel you have to stay somewhere for if it's, if it's not working for you have the courage to move on. Which isn't always is easy.
Scott Brown (43:58):
No, it's difficult. I think it's being in that position you can be paralyzed by opportunities that might be in front of you. So there has to be a lot of thought goes into it. I did a similar thing myself and I just, I wanted to leave law and you have to be willing to take a step back, to take a step, to move forwards and realize that there may be retraining and potentially financial detriment, but like you're gonna, if you're enjoying something I, I find anyway, if you enjoy it, it means you're good at it. Or if you're good at it, it means you enjoy it a lot more. So I think being able to find that sweet spot is, is really important. Cause
Scott Brown (44:43):
I think when you're, you're, you're enjoying what you're doing, you're, you're going to be naturally benefit in the long run. So, so yeah, it's, it's approaching it with a, I think like you said, an open mind with someone else on the, a guest earlier and the, the, the series who was a recruiter at a legal recruiter. But their, their tagline is ‘Take the meeting’ and it, it stuck with me just as a, as a philosophy to have like, just be open to having a conversation with someone. You never know where it's going to go.
Elizabeth Rimmer (45:16):
Yeah. I love that cuz actually that's yeah. Yeah. I think take the meeting is a really good
Elizabeth Rimmer (45:24):
Mantra because I think in my time at LawCare, the number of people that contact us and say, ‘oh, I'd be really interested to talk to you about what you do in mental health’. And I finding half an hour of those conversations has led to all kinds of things from people that I don't think I would've- if I'd closed my mind off and thought, ‘okay, I'm too busy, I've got too much in my diary. I can't make time for that’. I can think of the numerous things that we do now and people that have become involved in our organization, who are all people that got in touch out of the blue and they've led to other things. I mean you have to manage it. But I, I think that's right. I think that is don't close your mind to other opportunity or potentials for other opportunities by thinking ‘I haven't got capacity’ or ‘I haven't got time’ is, you know, put it in in six weeks time or whatever it is. Because you just never know where it may take you. I mean, not everything that crosses your inbox, but you can usually decide which things may have potential.
Scott Brown (46:30):
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve found there's never a waste to a wasted coffee or a wasted, a wasted five minute conversation. It like you said, it's, it's managing it and making sure you've got exactly, you've actually got capacity and time to do so, an open mind.
Elizabeth Rimmer (46:46):
And you learn a lot from those conversations as well. People often challenge your perceptions and ways of thinking about things. So it all, it's all useful.
Scott Brown (46:57):
Great. so on, on the, on, on the podcast as well Elizabeth, I've been asking my guests on series three, what they would, what they would confine to Room 101 if if they had the choice from within the legal profession. So either either a person a stereotype or a law or something that you would, you would Chuck into room 1 0 1.
Elizabeth Rimmer (47:22):
I would Chuck billable hours into Room 101.
Scott Brown (47:26):
Yeah. I think there's been a few…
Elizabeth Rimmer (47:28):
A few people have said that. Yeah, I think the, the business, I think the business model in private practice is broken and I think measuring people's value in an organization just by what they bill and their outputs is not the metric we should be using, we should be looking at at the outcomes. And so, yeah, I would like many other people that's what I do for sure. Would put billable hours in Room 1o1.
Scott Brown (47:59):
I think you definitely have enough supporters for that to go in.
I've, I've really enjoyed our conversation. Elizabeth, it's been great to find out more about your career and what led you to LawCare and, and a bit more around what LawCareock here does. How would people learn more about LawCare and, and who, who could they reach out to and how could they get in touch?
Elizabeth Rimmer (48:32):
So the easiest way to find out more about us is to go to our website, which is law care.org.uk, and all the information there about how to contact us, our support services, our life in the law research and our resources for individuals and organizations are on our websites. And we're on social media, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. So you could follow us there as well.
Scott Brown (48:58):
And they're paying for it indirectly from their from, from their subscription fees to the SRE anyway,
Elizabeth Rimmer (49:06):
So yeah, so a a, a very, very, very, very tiny percentage, like less than 0.01 probably finds its way to LawCare. But yes, we are funded via the professional bodies, which comes from people's practicing certificate fees. And that is, I think something that we would be good if it was highlighted more, because I would like to think that legal professionals would feel that a tiny donation to law care from their practicing certificate fee was a good use of that money for the support and services and education that we provide. So yes, we are service for the profession funded by the profession. So we would just like more people to, to know about that and take advantage of it.
Scott Brown (49:57):
And can people volunteer? Can, can people volunteer to, to help out?
Elizabeth Rimmer (50:03):
Yes. So we have helpline volunteers and peer supporters. So we're currently not looking for any more helpline volunteers, but we are occasionally only recruiting for new peer supporters. And again, that's on our website. If we're looking for volunteers, you can have a look and apply. We're always looking for people if you're based in London to join our London legal walk which is at the end of June this year, our London legal walk team. And we're also just looking for anybody who's interested in promoting mental health and wellbeing in their organization. We've got lots of resources that we can send in a Dropbox that would help you put an article or something on your internet site, within your firm will workplace about LawCare and the support we provide. So if anybody listening wants to promote us within their organization we can send you those resources as well. And again, you can, you can contact us via our website and our email details are there too
Scott Brown (51:02):
Amazing. All right. Well thank you for your time. It's been great. Great speaking, great meeting you.
Elizabeth Rimmer (51:09):
Good. Really good to meet you, Scott. Thanks a lot.
Scott Brown (51:13):
Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for joining me as a guest this week on Lessons I learned in Law. What a great organization LawCare is. And as you said, really under under publicized and not something that I'm massively aware of in the legal profession. So head over to their website, which is link in the bio, give them a follow.
If you've enjoyed listening to that episode, there's more great guests head over to Heriotbrown.com/podcast to see who else has been appearing on the podcast? Please like, and subscribe - that way you get to hear and get notified about new episodes as they come out. I'm Scott Brown. Thanks for listening.