James is a managing associate in the Planning & Environment Team working with clients to navigate the complex planning system to secure planning permission and to carry out development. He tells us a bit about his role, why he became a Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) and how a daily walk benefits his own wellbeing.
What drives you in your role?
For me, I find the problem-solving aspect of law to be the most satisfying. Understanding what a client wants to achieve and working with them to make it happen is what I enjoy most. I also work closely with colleagues in other teams, for example in providing planning support on transactions – it's great being able to work with so many people in the business.
What was your Plan B if you didn't go into law?
I was working as a civil servant at the Home Office before I started my training contract. I think, had I not gone into law, I'd have stayed in the civil service.
What made you decide to become a MHFA?
Mental health problems at work are common but rarely spoken about. I became a MHFA to help breakdown the stigma and to ensure colleagues are supported at work.
What was your key takeaway from your experience as an MHFA to date?
Before going through the training, I thought that being an MHFA would be about helping to 'fix' people. That isn't the case. The training made me aware of how important it is simply to listen to someone.
How can we normalise conversations about mental health?
The starting point must be talking about mental health more. The firm has made really good progress in moving mental health up the agenda. Hopefully, the support the firm has shown for MHFAs will lead to mental health awareness being embedded further into our culture. Cultural change takes time, but I think we can be proud of the progress we've made so far.
Do you find getting out in nature beneficial to your mental health?
My husband and I go for a 4.5 mile walk each day in the Cornish countryside. We go out before work and have found setting this time aside each day to be really beneficial. Although on some winter mornings having to use a torch for half the walk was challenging, we were rewarded with some fantastic sunrises. Seeing the seasons change through our walks has helped us to feel more in touch with the world, particularly during the various lockdowns.
What do you value about the culture at Foot Anstey?
I've found the firm to be open and non-hierarchical. The pandemic has made life much tougher for many people, but I feel the firm is making a genuine effort to strike a balance between the needs of the business and the wellbeing of all staff.