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Mental Health and Employment: Issues for Lawyers

17 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2007  

Joellen Riley

The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: June 12, 2007


Economic pressure and a hyper competitive work environment has intensified working hours and work stress across Australian business and industry - and perhaps no more acutely than in the professions. Lawyers - particularly those in private practice - know well that the stress induced by the tyranny of billable hours and client demands can induce or exacerbate mental ill-health. In this paper I would like to consider Dawson's proposition that a growing awareness of occupational stress . . . foreshadows an accelerating spiral of claims by workers for related injuries and diseases in the light of some very recent Australian case law dealing with common law claims for psychiatric harm suffered as a result of employment conditions. The two cases I propose to examine - Koehler v Cerebos (Australia) Ltd, (Koehler) and Nikolich v Goldman Sachs J B Were Services Pty Ltd (Nikolich) - tell a somewhat unsatisfying story about the potential for the common law to adequately address the very real problems that Dawson identified so long ago.

Keywords: mental health, mental illness, legal profession, lawyers

Suggested Citation

Riley, Joellen, Mental Health and Employment: Issues for Lawyers (June 12, 2007). UNSW Law Research Paper No. 2007-38. Available at SSRN: or

Joellen Riley (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
+61 2 9351 0205 (Phone)
+61 2 9351 0200 (Fax)

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