Let’s go back in time to May 11th, 2021 when TLC-Virtual Resiliency teamed up with Clio, the leader in cloud-based legal technology, to host a customized workshop for paralegals and other law firm support staff. This highly interactive workshop had over 100 attendees, who were all able to give valuable input. Participants were provided critical insight to the mental health of this legal support and administrative staff. These attendees reported that they feel left behind by the legal field’s initiatives to improve lawyers’ mental health and well-being. This response is consistent with a 2019 study that found law firm staffers feel left behind in the legal profession’s mental health movement. This sentiment is certainly reflected in the research.
During our preparation for this workshop, we found there is a lack of research on mental health support for paralegals. This gap reflects the blind eye that is often turned to members of legal team support staff, despite the American Bar Association’s numerous initiatives and campaigns to support mental health and improve well-being. In fact, the ABA reported that “there is no specific data on paralegals,” and instead stated more generally that it is reasonable to assume paralegals and law firm support staff experience mental health issues at a greater rate because attorneys do. This lack of research and feeling of being left behind is sobering but not shocking.
We know that legal administration and paralegals feel left behind. We also know that, similar to attorneys, they face depression, anxiety, and burnout. However, there is little to no action to support these team members. In fact, the only support they receive is an extension of support created for associates and partners. A hierarchy in law firms may exclude support staff from receiving psychological support. One study by the ABA found that “36% of firms that say they offer mental health programming do not extend those programs to their professional staff.”
The stress of the adversarial system does not stop with the attorney. It permeates to the entire legal team. Paralegals are in the trenches, fighting alongside attorneys, but receive little accolades for their commendable work. Resources should extend to the entire legal team, and provide support for all the unique stressors they endure.
Despite the lack of support for paralegals and administrative staff, Clio is ahead of this curve in providing education and awareness regarding the stressors of supporting the practice of law. Here at TLC-VR, our mission is to help those who help others. This workshop is just the beginning. What we learned was eye opening, and we are motivated to meet the greater need for such service. TLC-VR is here to help the often forgotten and left behind, the legal administrators and paralegals.
Author: Elizabeth McCabe