For a long time I have advocated that lawyers should reach beyond the narrow confines of their legal specialism in order to meet the wider needs of their clients and also to be innovative in developing new services – which seems particularly important with the threat of massive changes in the legal market as a result of the Legal Services Act.
On the private client side of the market I have suggested that solicitors leverage their trusted adviser status that they have with, for example, elderly clients to provide a range of related services such as property and contractor maintenance or a care homes check up service to reassure distant family members. Having psychology training in the past I couldn’t understand why lawyers managing particularly stressful situations – such as divorce, redundancy, major accidents and bereavement – didn’t work in collaboration with mental and physical health advisers to provide a more holistic solution.
So it was with great delight that yesterday I attended a lunchtime session, run by an eminent psychiatrist from The Priory, for the lawyers and support staff at Seddons solicitors. The purpose of the fast overview of the world of psychiatry (covering topics such as affective disorders, anxiety, stress and addiction – how to spot potential problems and the likely treatments available) was both as a responsible employer to ensure that staff were aware of the dangers of mental illness that affects one in four of the population at some point in their life but, more importantly, how the lawyers can identify such problems in their clients and then refer them to the appropriate help when required.
It’s a small step towards an integrated psychology-physical-practical-legal solution but an important one.