Anxiety and litigation

17 May 2023

This week (15 to 21 May 2023) is Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme for 2023 is Anxiety. 

Anxiety can be brought on by many different things, including the daily pressures of work or from events in your personal life.  And it often suddenly happens that, in the middle of dealing with these daily pressures, something unexpected and urgent arises that completely throws you.

One such example is court proceedings. 

As litigators, we have a front row seat to the immense pressure that court proceedings exert on our clients and other connected parties.  The following list identifies, in our experience, common causes of anxiety experienced by our clients when proceedings are afoot.  we have offered some comments and thoughts on the way these can be eased by making use of your legal team.

1. Uncovering the unknown

Quite often individuals understandably feel overwhelmed at the prospect of becoming embroiled in a dispute and will have lots of unanswered questions, such as 'what are my rights?' and 'what are the next steps?'

These initial concerns can easily be addressed by your legal team who should direct you to the best person to assist with your particular enquiry.  They can establish at the outset your overarching goal in order to identify the appropriate next steps.

2. Managing expectations

Solicitors are required by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (the SRA) to act in clients' best interests at all times. Your legal team is on your side but will be duty bound to have those perhaps uncomfortable (but necessary) conversations in which they may have to identify there is no merit in pursuing a legal action or, if on the receiving end of a claim, continuing to defend it.

Having established the merits, your legal team should agree your end goal with you and will then be able to discuss the most cost-effective and pragmatic route to achieving your desired result, whilst having consideration for the time you may have to expend and likely distresses you may experience.

Ultimately, your legal advisers will be transparent and realistic when establishing your prospects so there is no risk of you proceeding with false expectations and incurring unrecoverable costs.

3. Offering protection

Often it is the case that 'legalese' can intimidate and confuse individuals who do not have regular exposure to this type of language.  This has the capacity to cause stress and anxiety particularly when dealing with communications from the opposing parties' legal representatives.  This may be interpreted as being aggressive and threatening.  

Similarly, it is unfortunately the case that your opponent will frequently try to exert undue pressure upon you and seek to gain an advantage by imposing deadlines on you (or demand that you comply or respond to correspondence within a certain time period).

We understand that this can induce anxiety and your legal representatives can alleviate this pressure by acting as the buffer between you and your opponent.  Your legal team should also cut through the legalese and convert this into plain English, so you can properly interpret your opponent's correspondence.   Your legal team should also ensure that any applicable deadlines are diarised and communicated to you, so that matters can be dealt with in a timely fashion (where possible), to depressurise the situation.

4. Providing clarity

Following the resolution of your matter (whether at the end of a long-fought case at court or upon reaching an agreement following seeking legal advice) you should be better placed to understand your rights and confidently defend your legal position should any further issues arise in the future.   If you are unsure your legal representative should always be on hand to clarify matters any further matters for you.

There are many great (and free of charge) resources offered online to help raise awareness and also to provide support - whether for you, a colleague or a friend.

We would always recommend seeking further professional advice from a medically trained professional if you are struggling with your mental health. 

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