In last month’s Legal Life we published an article introducing the work of the charity LawCare. This month we look at a typical day in the life of the charity.
LawCare’s helplines open at 9 a.m. Trish McLellan (LawCare’s Co-ordinator for Scotland and Northern Ireland) is on duty today based at her home in Edinburgh. She starts by checking for any messages which might have been left overnight, then checks and responds to some email messages from the other staff, and one of her contacts at the Law Society of Scotland. She then looks at the previous day’s case notes as she was not on duty.
At 9.20 the phone rings. It’s a tearful, newly qualified solicitor who feels she is being victimised by her supervisor after being loudly berated for being five minutes late. Trish speaks to her for forty minutes, helping to calm her down, finding out more about the bullying behaviour, and encouraging her to take steps to deal with it. She offers the caller the support of a volunteer, but the caller declines, opting instead to read the pages on bullying on LawCare’s website. Trish then enters detailed notes about the call on LawCare’s closed and confidential computer system, enabling other members of the helpline staff to identify the caller should she call again. Another call at 11 am is from someone who has called several times before, and needs a few more words of encouragement and support. Trish suggests a counsellor; the caller agrees and Trish arranges to call him back later in the day with details of suitable counsellors in his area.
Meanwhile, Mary Jackson, LawCare’s Co-ordinator for Ireland, is in Cork touring an addiction treatment centre. Unlike UK units, Irish treatment centres have not historically accepted private referrals. Since most Irish lawyers do not want to be referred through their GP, this can pose a problem. As with other centres she has visited, Mary is able to speak at length to the Director, who agrees to accept Irish lawyers referred through LawCare.
Ann Charlton (Co-ordinator for England and Wales) is giving a lunchtime presentation to a firm of thirty solicitors in Nottingham. She arrives with her laptop and projector, sets up the screen and puts the materials for the delegates on the chairs. The presentation is about stress recognition and management, and Ann trains the attendees for an hour and a half, using humorous DVD snippets and including having the delegates do some exercises to assess their own stress levels. There are contributions from the floor and questions afterwards. The presentation is well received. Each of the delegates has gained 1½ CPD points and the firm has paid a little over £3 per delegate in covering LawCare’s expenses.
Anna Buttimore, LawCare’s Administrator, is based at her home in Essex. She starts work at 9.30 by going through the post and email. She then designs a new advertisement to be used in a legal journal, sends out some leaflets to a firm which has asked to distribute them to its staff, and updates two case files with reports sent in by volunteers. A journalist phones asking about levels of stress in the bar, and Anna is able to give him some relevant statistics —in return for a promise to include LawCare’s helpline number and website in his article. As a charity, LawCare needs all the free publicity it can get.
Hilary Tilby, LawCare’s Chief Executive, spends the morning preparing an application for continuing funding to submit to the Law Society of England and Wales Charity. LawCare’s largest funder, their grant is not guaranteed and it is necessary to reapply each year. Once it is finished, Hilary leaves for London. She has a meeting with an executive from one of the professional groups LawCare represents, where she discusses ways to help make members more aware of the services available. Following this, she appears with a helpline caller at the SDT (Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal). At the caller’s request, she is able to explain that the Solicitor reported being under considerable personal pressure at the material time, and document a number of calls to the helpline. The Tribunal takes this into consideration, and the Solicitor is given a fine, a better outcome than the Solicitor was expecting.
Meanwhile Trish takes another call from someone who first called several days ago, worried about the amount he was drinking. Ann, who was on helpline duty that day, had advised him to go to his GP and AA as well as sending him an alcohol information pack, but he was particularly keen to speak to a volunteer. Unfortunately, neither of the volunteers Ann had called has returned her messages. Trish assures him that she will keep trying and updates his case file with a record of his visit to the doctor.
Mary phones Anna to let her know the outcome of her visit to the treatment centre, and Anna adds a link to the unit to LawCare’s website. Hilary is manning a stand at a legal conference the following week, so Anna prints several copies of each of LawCare’s information packs and puts these into a box to send to the venue, so that Hilary can hand them out to delegates. By 5 p.m. Trish has taken three further long calls and is getting behind on writing up the notes and following up volunteers and counsellors. She phones Ann, who is happy to take over the helplines until they close at 7.30.
It’s been a good day. Four new case files, and updates to several more. Thirty lawyers educated about stress and a new treatment centre available to Irish lawyers. A Solicitor helped in a disciplinary matter and publicity arranged so that more lawyers will know about the help and support available from LawCare.
LawCare offers free and completely confidential advice and support to by way of a 365 day a year helpline:
0800 279 6869.
9 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. on weekdays
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at weekends and UK public holidays