27 Mar 2019
[Copy of article by William Telford originally published on PlymouthLive, 26th March 2019]
Law Society president has a mission to help young lawyers suffering from mental health issues.
She’s a solicitor and an advocate for helping families get justice – and the new president of Plymouth Law Society is also setting out her stall as a mental health campaigner, speaking up for a young generation unfairly dubbed “snowflakes”.
Rachel Shoheth has put the welfare of young lawyers, often coming under immense mental stress in a fast-moving hot-house environment, at the top of her agenda for 2019.
She wants to highlight the issues and would even like a team of counsellors set up to support young solicitors with mental health issues.
It’s an appropriate ambition for a year in which, particularly men’s, mental health is at the forefront of debate, and Plymouth Live is highlighting it with its Reach Out campaign.
Rachel Shoheth of Gard & Co Solicitors (Image: Erin Black/Plymouth Live)
Ms Shoheth said: “Some young lawyers experience mental health issues, but until now sufferers have probably felt ashamed and not come forward and spoken to someone.
“The culture in some law firms is sink-or-swim.”
Ms Shoheth said she intends to work closely with the Law Society’s Junior Lawyers Division to ensure young people coming into the profession are cared for.
“I think many people denigrate young people,” she said. “They say they are ‘snowflakes’ or are not robust, but my experience has been very different.
“I work with many young lawyers coming into our profession and their attitude and enthusiasm for work is amazing.
“But it is a shame if they are not feeling supported, have mental health issues, or need someone to talk to.
“The law is a wonderful career and it would be a shame if people were put off going into law or had to leave at an early stage because they did not feel supported.
“I’d like to work with organisations that offer counselling or pastoral care, or even talk to people myself. I want to do my best in this role.”
Ms Shoheth, who is a family lawyer with Plymouth firm Gard and Co, is also concerned about access to the courts for families stung by cutbacks in availability of Legal Aid.
Rachel Shoheth of Gard and Co Solicitors (Image: Erin Black/Plymouth Live)
“This has impacted on people,” she said. “People are effectively being denied access to justice, they can’t afford to pay for lawyers.”
She said this has led to a “flood of litigators in person”, people trying to represent themselves in court, often inadequately and causing delays to the process.
“The courts are stretched to their limit,” she said. “And more and more people are using the court system without the benefit of a lawyer or legal advice.
“This has been a concern for us as a society. In Plymouth we have so many people struggling, people don’t have the money and if they can’t get legal advice where can they go?”
Ms Shoheth said this can mean that some people, suffering a relationship breakdown, could end up without access to their children, or without the “meaningful” access they deserve.
Ms Shoheth is also concerned people could be tempted to use unregulated advisors, who may not be insured or “do not know the law”.
She wants to lobby nationally to bring the issue to the notice of the Government.
Ms Shoheth is a partner at Gard and Co. She qualified as a solicitor in 1996 and joined the Bretonside based firm in 1998, initially specialising in residential conveyancing and then subsequently moving to the family department in order to diversify as a lawyer and to widen her areas of legal expertise.
When she is not working she enjoys coastal walks and amateur dramatics.