More than 70 per cent of in-house counsel experienced increased stress and anxiety in 2020: survey

Staff-related issues caused by COVID-19 include remote working, mental health, stress, burnout

More than 70 per cent of in-house counsel experienced increased stress and anxiety in 2020: survey

Legal department leaders should prioritize employee wellbeing and retention issues post-pandemic and should implement programs for these purposes, according to the findings of a survey conducted by the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association and Mondaq.

Seventy-one per cent of respondents reported experiencing a rise in work-related stress and anxiety levels in 2020, with perceived contributors including higher levels of in-house accountability and greater demand for in-house legal services. Sixty per cent of respondents said they adopted additional responsibilities relating to matters like compliance, ethics, investigations and ESG.

The survey found that Canadian in-house counsel still face challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the most significant concerns pertaining to staff-related issues arising during the pandemic such as remote working, deteriorating mental health, health and safety, employee stress levels and staff burnout.

With respect to expected increases in demand for certain types of in-house legal services, 55 per cent answered “data privacy,” 46 per cent said “risk and compliance” and 39 per cent said “supporting operational delivery.”

The survey, developed in partnership with an advisory board of in-house counsel from across Canada, covered over 460 survey responses from in-house lawyers between March and May. It sought to offer timely insights on the present state and future outlooks of Canadian in-house legal departments and on hot-button issues encountered by in-house lawyers, said a news release.

The Canadian Corporate Counsel Association and Mondaq conducted an online webinar on July 15 consisting of a moderated discussion on the survey results with the survey architects and authors. The webinar aimed to explain the survey’s insights regarding the Canadian in-house profession, including in relation to in-house lawyers’ challenges, issues and priorities; the direction of in-house legal teams; and the qualities that would make for a “great” in-house lawyer.

Speakers at the webinar included Alexandra Chyczij, Christine Staley and Tim Harty. Chyczij, the CCCA’s executive director, is a strategic leader with over two decades of experience with not-for-profit professional associations and an advocate for human and civil rights, the rule of law and addressing historical injustices.

Staley, the CCCA’s professional development director, practised in the fields of insurance defence and coverage in Toronto before leaving the practice of law for senior leadership roles in Ontario-based and Alberta-based legal organizations. Staley helped develop the executive-MBA style program specifically made for in-house counsel, in collaboration with Rotman School of Management

Harty, Mondaq’s chief executive officer, has over two decades of experience serving global legal and compliance markets in product development and general management positions.

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