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Karate championships: the perfect distraction from the stresses of child protection law for Lorraine Green
All areas of the law bring a degree of stress, but the realm of child protection has particular challenges. While wellbeing and mental health have definitely risen up the agenda in the legal profession, the charity LawCare reports that 69 per cent of lawyers have experienced mental ill-health during their career. Other sectors, such as police and social work, benefit from structured training and support, but there is no formal support available within the legal profession and so lawyers have to develop their own coping strategies.
Lorraine Green, a partner in the children’s law team at Miles and Partners shares her experience: ‘We have to read reports and see photographs of very distressing events and it can be hard to leave thoughts of these behind. All our work is highly confidential, so we cannot share it with family and friends.’
‘Of course we find support among colleagues, but we each need to find our own methods of self-care too. I find it helps if I can immerse myself in something physical which is also intellectually demanding, such as salsa dancing which I learnt for a while.’
In 2018, Lorraine also took up karate and aside from contributing to her physical wellbeing, it has provided other benefits – not least the sense of accomplishment from winning a gold medal at the Karate World Cup in July 2023, two gold medals at the WUKF British Open Karate Championships in February 2023, hot on the heels of a silver medal at the WUKF European Championships in Italy in November 2022.
Lorraine specializes in kumite karate; one of three main types of karate in which a person spars against an adversary (a new sport at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo). She has always had an interest in martial arts and practiced Tae Kwon Do in the past. After spending a lot of time on the side-lines watching her son practice karate, she let the instructor know that she was interested in having a go too.
‘When they started the class for adults, I don’t mind admitting that it was a bit daunting at first,’ says Lorraine who had not been on a mat for nearly eight years, but she soon started to enjoy herself.
‘The thing that I really like about martial arts is the way that, as well as being a physical activity, it requires total concentration to develop the skills. This means that your mind can really switch off from work in a way that doesn’t happen if you are swimming or pounding a treadmill.’
It was great for mother and son to have a shared interest, and it also forced Lorraine to close down the computer and get out of her chair. Consequently, during the lockdowns, Lorraine managed to improve by three belts (known as grading up) going from a green belt to a brown belt. She was encouraged to start competing against other brown belts in November 2021.
‘Unfortunately, I was the only female adult and had to compete with teenagers who were more agile and a lot more experienced.’ Undeterred, she won a bronze medal in Kata, and went on to win her first gold medal in Kumite in April 2022 at the Karate England Open.
The club covers a broad syllabus, including self-defence techniques which help develop the confidence to dispel an escalating situation. The practice of martial arts also has psychological and philosophical benefits, as Lorraine explains, ‘Just as you cannot win every point of argument before a judge, it is also true that you cannot win every point in a match. And just because you win a point early, it can be easy to lose the match overall.’
‘In karate, we don’t talk about losing – we either win or learn’
‘In karate, we don’t talk about losing – we either win or learn – and this is a great philosophy to apply to a legal case if you are disappointed with the outcome. As I am fairly new to competing, my focus is on doing well, I don’t yet have a reputation to be concerned about defending.’
Whether you are in court or in the ring, you also have to be prepared for the unexpected, and to be able to manage your stress levels. In karate, there is a belief that prevention is better than cure, and if there was some dedicated support for those solicitors who work in the realm of child protection, it would prevent things getting to the point where they need support from LawCare.
‘Fortunately, I’ve found something that works for me,’ says Lorraine. ‘But it would be good to see provision of training and counselling in regard to vicarious trauma, which is a very real risk in this area of work.’
Lorraine Green is a partner at Miles and Partners LLP