IBA embarks on first phase of global initiative on mental wellbeing in the legal profession

Friday 10 July 2020

The International Bar Association (IBA) has embarked on a global project aimed at addressing the mental wellbeing of legal professionals as Covid-19 exacerbates tensions in professional and personal lives. The key initial phase of the project consists of two global surveys – one for individual lawyers, the other for law firms and other legal institutions, including bar associations, law societies and in-house legal departments. Available in both English and Spanish, the surveys are anonymous and take approximately ten minutes to complete.

The IBA Individual Lawyer Wellbeing Survey can be accessed here.

The IBA Institutional Wellbeing Survey is available here.

The data gathered from the completed surveys will provide insight into:

  • the pressing mental health concerns of legal professionals;
  • the support they can expect to receive from their workplaces;
  • how the wellbeing of lawyers and other stakeholders in the legal profession are affected by their work and working environments;
  • identifying problems that each might have faced in getting the help they needed; and
  • what law firms, bars and law societies should be doing to support those in distress.


IBA President Horacio Bernardes Neto has convened the IBA Wellbeing Taskforce, which will be led by IBA Bar Issues Commission Officers, with assistance from the IBA Legal Policy & Research Unit. Mental wellbeing within the legal profession has been one Mr Bernardes’ key priorities. He is cognizant of the fact that the issue will outlast any single IBA President; the Taskforce is a precursor to establishing a permanent body within the IBA to address the mental wellbeing of legal professionals on a continuing basis.

In an address to IBA members, Mr Bernardes Neto stated: ‘The devastating effects of depression, stress, addiction and other such attacks on our mental health may have preceded the current crisis, but there is no question that Covid-19 has exacerbated their impact. Yet, just as the pandemic has posed challenges for our profession and ways of life, and in the process refocused our attention to this critical issue, so it also presents opportunities for us to change for the better in the future.’ He added: ‘These studies will provide us with a vital global snapshot of our profession. I sincerely hope that they will lead not only to the sharing of best practice guides, but also to starting conversations in those parts of the world where mental wellbeing is not spoken about so openly, and lawyers perhaps find themselves suffering in silence.’

The wellbeing surveys have been developed in collaboration with consultancy firm Acritas (part of Thomson Reuters). The majority of questions in the anonymous surveys, for individuals and institutions alike, are multiple choice and several questions pertain to the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on mental wellbeing in the workplace. A sample of non-multiple choice questions appear below.

Questions from the IBA Individual Lawyer Wellbeing Survey include:

  • What, if any, support does your employer / place of work provide in relation to mental wellbeing at work?
  • On balance, do you feel more or less able to talk about your mental wellbeing with your employer than before the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • What lessons from the pandemic do you think the legal profession, and legal institutions in particular, need to learn for the future, in relation to mental wellbeing?


Some sample questions from the IBA Institutional Wellbeing Survey include:

  • What mental wellbeing initiatives, services, or support programmes do you provide?
  • Has the pandemic increased awareness of employee/member mental wellbeing as an important issue for you as an organisation?
  • During the pandemic, has there been an increase or decrease in employees/members seeking assistance related to mental wellbeing?


The IBA Individual Lawyer Wellbeing Survey can be accessed here. The IBA Institutional Wellbeing Survey is available here.

Data gathered from the surveys will be discussed in detail by the IBA’s Wellbeing Taskforce in a showcase session at the IBA 2020 – Virtually Together Conference in November. The session will feature representatives from across the IBA, alongside mental health experts.


Notes to the Editor

  1. Click here to access the IBA Individual Lawyer Wellbeing Survey.
  2. Click here to access the IBA Institutional Wellbeing Survey.
  3. The IBA Legal Policy & Research Unit (LPRU) undertakes research and develops and implements innovative strategies and initiatives that are relevant to current contemporary global issues. Members of the team have particular areas of expertise, including legal ethics and compliance, anti-corruption, business and human rights, criminal law, cybersecurity and technological innovation, such as the use of blockchain in the legal profession. This expertise continues to be developed through project based work, research, publications and policy development.
  4. The Bar Issues Commission (BIC) supports the interests of IBA’s member organisations, which consist of bar associations, law societies and similar bodies from around the world. This includes: arranging events to discuss issues that affect the legal profession globally; working groups that develop resources and guidelines for bar associations: and a Policy Committee which advises the IBA Council on key IBA resolutions and statements.
  5. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

For further information please contact:

Romana St. Matthew - Daniel
Press Office
International Bar Association
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London EC4A 4AD

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Email: romana.daniel@int-bar.org
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IBA website page link for this news release:
Short link: tinyurl.com/y7rcsd27