Mental health and employee wellbeing, how Stephenson Harwood is making it an operational priority

Market trends of recent years have been a catalyst for cultural change within law firms, with a renewed focus on employee mental health and work life balance. With Mental Health Awareness Week commencing last week, conversations around how firms can support employees, lower stress levels with fairer workloads and improve staff satisfaction are ripe in the industry.

One firm that have embraced these market drivers is Stephenson Harwood. The leading law firm have implemented a structured work allocation model that supports lawyers to receive fair distribution of work, reducing employees becoming over-stretched and working above capacity. The firm have facilitated this by recruiting a resource allocation manager and implementing BigHand Resource Management.

The project, which led to over 90% of staff agreeing work was being allocated more fairly, involved developing a skills matrix whereby the new Resource Management team could easily view which associates had skills that would be transferable across the division, and which associates had expressed an interest in skills they were keen to develop. This promoted career progression and gave visibility to who could be supported with workload reductions and who might have capacity for more. 

With this in place, matters could be allocated to associates more effectively and strategically, and associates could register interest in the type of work they wanted to undertake regardless of where they were based, without the risk of any potential unconscious bias. 

Taryn Barker, Senior Human Resources Business Partner, Stephenson Harwood LLP, explains, “We now had increased visibility on matter allocation and team capacity. This, combined with anecdotal evidence that associates were happier with the way work was being allocated, led us to expand it into the finance, commercial litigation, and MIT practice groups, where we were also able to extend the system to trainees and paralegals.” 

 “Ultimately, this project is helping to drive and increase collaboration, equity, and inclusion and is fundamental to how we support and develop our staff optimally as a business,” she concludes. 

To learn more on how Stephenson Harwood are supporting their associate’s development, read the full case study here.