The Covid-19 pandemic, along with cuts to legal aid, has added greatly to the emotional trauma of lawyers, the authors of a new book have revealed.

Barrister Rachel Francis and solicitor-turned-psychology researcher Joanna Fleck, are the authors of ‘Vicarious Trauma in the Legal Profession: a practical guide to trauma, burnout and collective care’, reporting that lawyers have found relating to clients has increased in difficulty during the pandemic, as they are closely dealing with grief and people in crisis.

Despite wellbeing rising up the agenda for many firms, lawyers are carrying huge amounts of stress in their role as “last person standing” between clients and a “really austere backdrop”.

Ms Fleck said:

“We are trained problem solvers and solution-driven and have the idea that there is something we can do even if we don’t necessarily have the capacity needed. You worry about [its impact on you] later.

“The focus is so closely on clients and the weight that you sometimes carry is not recognised as much as it might be.”

She also cautioned that working with clients who have lived through ‘unimaginable horror’ could have a real physical impact on the lawyers who represent them:

“Our body cells respond as if the trouble was happening to us, and may be similar to post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, sometimes known as ‘secondary trauma’.”

The book was created with combined experiences gained from the authors’ organisation, Claiming Space, a community interest company which offers resources and workplace training on the subject.

Holding sessions with lawyers and carrying out training at law firms, gave the pair insights into how career burnout and vicarious trauma affected people in the working environment.