Relationships between workplace characteristics, psychological stress, affective distress, burnout and empathy in lawyers

Nora Chlap*, Rhonda Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Recent studies indicate that lawyers are at greater risk of experiencing stress, anxiety, depression and burnout symptoms than other occupational groups and the general population. Opinion pieces have suggested that workplace culture and law practice characteristics can explain the distress. However, no empirical studies have considered the potential impact of the factors on lawyer’s mental health or evaluated the potential impact of lawyer’s mental health on their clients. Empathy is an essential component of legal practice especially during client interactions; and prior research in doctors has shown that stress, anxiety, depression and burnout are associated with low empathy. This study examined the relationship between workplace characteristics, psychological stress, affective distress (i.e. anxiety, depression), burnout and empathy in lawyers. Private practice and in-house lawyers (n = 200) completed a questionnaire asking about work-stress, supervisor and organisational support, stress, affective distress, burnout and empathy. Analyses showed that psychological stress and burnout in lawyers was related to greater work-stress and a lack of perceived organisational support, and in turn, psychological stress and burnout were associated with low empathy in lawyers. Results suggest that stressful and unsupportive workplaces may contribute to stress, affective distress and burnout in lawyers that may have implications for lawyer-client interactions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)159-180
    Number of pages22
    JournalInternational Journal of the Legal Profession
    Volume29
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2022

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