Academic researches stresses of local government solicitors

Around 350 local government lawyers are taking part in a two-year study examining their ability to cope with the stress of the reorganisations of their councils.

Jill Armfield, a University of Westminster lecturer in organisational behaviour, is carrying out the survey and planning in-depth interviews with between 40 and 50 solicitors.

Armfield, who is conducting the research as part of an Applied Psychology PhD at Cranfield University, said the aim was to see how individual solicitors coped with changes to their job and workplace.

Around 3,000 English and Welsh council solicitors have had to deal with a decade of complicated legislative change, from the Private Finance Initiative to Compulsory Competitive Tendering.

Armfield will examine if council solicitors have had to learn managerial skills to meet the changes and whether they see themselves as civil servants or independent professionals.

So far, 250 of the 350 surveys, which have been seen and approved by the Law Society and the Association of Council Secretaries and Solicitors, have been returned.

Although the survey consists mainly of simple multiple choice questions, many of the respondents have taken the time to write lengthy pieces about the transformation their workplaces are undergoing.

"Some people are quite distressed about what is happening." said Armfield, adding that others were unperturbed.

"Generally, the response to the survey has been very constructive – although, not without an element of cynicism," she said.

Armfield is planning a "longitudinal" study, which means she will follow the progress of some of the solicitors questioned in the survey over a two-year period.