"People don't take so much time off work anymore. People are not getting to the stage where they're broken and they can't continue, they're managing their mental health upfront."

 

About the initiatives

King & Wood Mallesons is a multinational law firm formed by the combination of Chinese firm King & Wood and Australian firm Mallesons Stephen Jaques.

Along with four major law firms in Australia (Allens, Ashurst, Clayton Utz & Herbert Smith Freehills) and The College of Law, King & Wood Mallesons developed resilience@law. As well as raising awareness around mental health and stress, the initiative aimed to address the stigma of mental health conditions and provide education, self-care strategies, support and resources.

Resilience@law was launched in cities across the country with the five firms taking turns to host events. The events included the launch of the resilience@law DVD, a short film developed about mental health in the legal profession, and the national launch of The College of Law training program, which focuses on mental health and resilience for lawyers at the threshold of their careers. 

King & Wood Mallesons leveraged the strong foundation of the resilience@law program to introduce a range of initiatives throughout the firm including mental health first aid training, partner mental health awareness workshops and 'building resilient careers' workshops. The firm offers a number of initiatives to support health and wellbeing including free gym membership, seminars, health checks, skin checks, flexibility and swap pay for leave policies and promotion of events, such as R U OK? Day and Mental Health Month.

How the initiatives came about

The resilience@law initiative emerged after a number of young lawyers reacted strongly to a lecture on poor mental health among young lawyers, particularly the legal profession’s stance towards promoting the health and wellbeing of their workers.

Resilience@law was spearheaded by the managing partners and HR directors of the firms, and HR teams at each organisation undertook mental health first aid training before launching resilience@law internally. The resilience@law initiative won the AHRI 2011 Martin Seligman Health and Wellbeing Award.

Benefits and outcomes

Benefits and outcomes from the resilience@law and related initiatives at King & Wood Mallesons include:

  • the firm continues to run regular mental health awareness and 'Managing mental health in the workplace' training sessions, inviting others within the legal profession to attend
  • development of an intranet site with information and links to a range of resources – individuals can seek help anonymously
  • the initiative has kick-started the conversation about mental health
  • people receive consistent messages on nutrition, exercise, building resilience and mental health
  • people feel cared for, which can help them feel safe and confident enough to speak up
  • HR staff are trained in Mental Health First Aid and Managing Mental Health in the Workplace
  • the College of Law now provides a mental health module in its practical legal training
  • seminars are well attended on topics of building resilience, exercise and nutrition, meditation
  • launch of a wellbeing officer program where people are trained to recognise and respond to mental health issues
  • a psychological rehabilitation program is available where needed
  • positive feedback has been received from across the organisation.

Recommendations, considerations and lessons learned

Challenge: Achieving a top-down approach 

Action:

  • Work closely and collaboratively with appropriate members of management and staff
  • Carefully select who to work with
  • Tailor communications to the audience (i.e. senior managers don’t need to attend a 12-hour training course so run a session over lunch)

Challenge: Industry relevance

Action:

  • Tailor messages to the particularities of the industry and the nature of the work

Challenge: Resources

Action:

  • Shop around to find the best providers; the cheapest may not be the most effective
  • Shop around for the most appropriate EAP for the profession

Challenge: Training HR  

Action:

  • Make allowance for training of HR staff so they are best placed to help others

Challenge: Training managers

Action

  • Train managers on identifying when and how to talk about mental health issues with staff

Challenge: Engaging staff

Action

  • Clearly address the question of ‘what’s in it for me?’ in all communications
  • Wording on email invitations is critical to gaining attention
  • The delivery of any mental health initiative relies on collaboration

Challenge: Sustainability

Action

  • One initiative in isolation is not the answer. The range of initiatives on offer must work in harmony.
  • Capitalise on program engagement with follow-up communications
  • Focus on the future and what is to come. Have a long term view of goals and objectives.
Vicki Irvine
King & Wood Mallesons

Vicki Irvine
Wellbeing Manager
King & Wood Mallesons