Newcastle law firm sounds alarm on mental health issues in the legal profession and the need for resilience programs

Professional concern: Criminal lawyers Drew Hamilton, left, and James Janke of Newcastle West firm Hamilton Janke Lawyers.
Professional concern: Criminal lawyers Drew Hamilton, left, and James Janke of Newcastle West firm Hamilton Janke Lawyers.

NEWCASTLE firm Hamilton Janke Lawyers plans to offer programs and mentorship in resilience for Hunter lawyers in a bid to address what it says are “staggering” mental health, depression and suicide statistics among the legal profession.

Drew Hamilton, 32, and James Janke, 31, who launched their criminal law practice in May, have both known lawyers who have taken their own lives or had mental health issues due to their work stress load.

 Sydney University’s Brain and Mind Institute figures in 2008 show depression affects almost 33 per cent of solicitors and 20 per cent of barristers; 40 per cent of law students experience severe stress and depression and require treatment; and 11 per cent of lawyers contemplate suicide each month.

 Research in the area of resilience: Cale Wallace, deputy principal and head of well-being at Callaghan College's Wallsend campus.

Research in the area of resilience: Cale Wallace, deputy principal and head of well-being at Callaghan College's Wallsend campus.

Hamilton Janke is liaising with Cale Wallace, deputy principal and head of well-being at Callaghan College’s Wallsend campus and a noted researcher in resilience who has presented findings to the Black Dog Institute and Beyond Blue, to develop a resilience program for lawyers. The firm is also in talks with the University of Newcastle’s Legal Centre regarding a mentoring program.

“It is a community arm of our business that we are exploring to help lawyers avoid the pitfalls that are inherent in our profession and statistics that have plagued our profession for some time,” says Mr Hamilton.

With a background in social work, he says Hamilton Janke offers a “holistic” service and is on call day and night for clients:  “We like to be available for them, I have connections with many  services and we can give clients help around treatment when they are most vulnerable,” says Mr Hamilton.

As fathers, the duo have based their business model on utilising technology to increase the firm’s agility and responsiveness to clients whilst enjoying balanced lives themselves: “We don’t want to get too stretched because it goes against what we are trying to achieve, which is more time with our families,” says Mr Janke.

Launching their firm is about “leaving a legacy in the community and for our families.”