Iberian lawyers reveal their 'secret terror'

Lawyers complain of 'living in hell' at work and experiencing family and other relationship problems.


Eight out of ten lawyers in Spain and Portugal want the profession to do more to address the issue of mental health with large workloads seen as a factor in cases of depression and suicide

'Living in hell'

An overwhelming majority of lawyers working at firms in Spain and Portugal believe the profession is not doing enough to tackle this issue, according to a new survey conducted by Iberian Lawyer. The survey reveals the vast majority of respondents said they believed ‘a large workload’ was the most common cause of the mental health problems they, or their colleagues, had suffered. Lawyers complain of being ‘permanently connected’ and unable to switch off. The survey is the first of its type covering the Spanish and Portuguese legal markets. Eight out of ten respondents to our survey of lawyers in Spain and Portugal said they had, or they knew a colleague who had, suffered from mental health problems at some point during their career as a lawyer. The problems experienced aby respondents are anxiety and stress (79 per cent), depression (69 per cent), and excessive alcohol consumption (27 per cent). Other behaviours cited included suicide attempts (9 per cent), use of illegal substances (9 per cent) and increased use of prescription drugs (9 per cent). A total of 5 per cent of respondents who had suffered from, or who knew a colleague who had suffered from, mental health problems said ‘suicidal thoughts’ were one way in which the problems manifested themselves. One sufferer described their experience of mental health problems as ‘like living in hell.’

Relationship problems

Large workloads and relationship issues are the main causes of mental health problems among lawyers, according to the study.  A total of 79 per cent said ‘a large workload’ had caused them, or a colleague, to suffer mental health problems, while 48 per cent said ‘relationship problems’ had been the cause. Respondents also suggested that lawyers are particularly at risk of suffering difficulties in their family life. Other causes of mental health problems among lawyers include financial problems (14 per cent) and bullying or harassment (13 per cent).  The survey is positive on the point that they detect a significant proportion of lawyers in Iberia who are suffering from mental health problems are seeking help. The study showed that 50 per cent of respondents with experience of mental health problems said they, or the colleague in question, had sought ‘professional help.’ However, 45 per cent said they did not know whether the colleague affected had sought professional help, while 5 per cent said they, or the colleague in question, had not sought help.

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