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8 City law firms pledge to improve lawyer wellbeing

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On World Mental Health Day

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Eight leading City law firms have pledged to change avoidable working practices that can cause mental health issues for their lawyers.

The Mindful Business charter, developed by Barclays, together with Addleshaw Goddard and Pinsent Masons, is understood to be the first time bankers and lawyers have joined forces to reach a shared agenda for supporting mental health and wellbeing. Ashurst, Baker McKenzie, Clifford Chance, Eversheds Sutherland, Hogan Lovells and Simmons & Simmons are among the signatories.

In signing, the firms promise to advance a culture of “openness about mental wellbeing” and “ensure responsible business is included as an area of assessment during significant procurement processes”. The firms’ performances against the charter’s objectives will be tracked as part of relationship review meetings.

The charter — which will be signed today on World Mental Health Day — has been backed by mental health charity Mind, the Law Society, LawCare and the Solicitors Regulatory Authority.

Richard Foley, senior partner at Pinsent Masons, said: “Professional advisers are often in a position of privilege, so it is easy to underestimate or overlook the impact of the work they do on their wellbeing. Mental health issues impact people at all levels and in all sectors. Changing working practices have increased those pressures significantly. It is not good enough to just accept that as the price we have to pay. We have a responsibility to make changes.”

The 2019 Firms Most List

The pledge comes on the back of statistics which showed that the percentage of rookie solicitors who have experienced mental health problems had more than doubled over the past year. Of the 332 trainees who responded to this year’s Junior Lawyers Division survey, 39% reported experiencing a mental health problem, up from 19% last year.

The unsettling findings followed a plethora of stress-related cases to appear before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).

One corporate associate, who sent several misleading emails to a client to “buy [himself] some time”, told the tribunal he had been left “physically and emotionally drained” by his heavy workload. In another example, a junior solicitor who had forged documents avoided being struck off after the SDT heard that her firm had adopted a “sudden focus on financial return on employees” and an “aggressive implementation” of billing targets.

Commenting on today’s pledge, Elizabeth Rimmer, CEO of LawCare, said:

“We are really pleased to see high profile firms coming together to develop this charter. Mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression are extremely prevalent in the law and are exacerbated by working long hours, constantly feeling under pressure and never having the opportunity to switch off. It’s fantastic that the legal community is coming together to look at practical ways we can improve the working life of lawyers.”

Struggling with stress? You can contact LawCare.

38 Comments

Anonymous

Comrades!

The day of socialism is at hand!
Jeremy Corbyn will improve wellbeing with a 4 day week!!!

FOR THE MANY, NOT THE FEW!!!

Agenda?

LC: Enables comments on an article about a topic as sensitive and divisive as mental health.

Also LC: Posts an article about gender quotas (an even more sensitive and divisive topic) and disables comments.

What does this tell us?

Anonymous

Hot air

Anonymous

Maybe it’s because LC trying to encourage its readers to think critically and to weigh up all sides of the story before making a judgment instead of misrepresenting facts and pushing an agenda? Wait… no I meant the other way around.

Anonymous

Anyone know the NQ rates at Kaufman Dolowich Voluck & Gonzo? Top top firm.

Anonymous

they have the dreamiest barristers

Anonymous

Sounds WASPy AF

Anonymous

Kaufman, Dolowich or Voluck sounds WASPy? Really? They’re all Jewish surnames you dumb fuck

Anonymous

New York firm = $190k.

Anonymous

£104,000 for woman and £124,000 for men

Anonymous

Any details on how the firms will achieve this?

It’s all good and well announcing you will stop beasting staff and show consideration for mental health issues but is it just a press release?

It would help to know if line managers are being trained in these principles and new policies developed to implement this target (e.g. limiting numbers of hours worked or TOIL if someone has been maxed out for a while on a project or deal). The crux is in how this is policed by the firms. Unless this is established it seems to be window dressing.

Anonymous

Maximum 50-60 working hours per week (not 50-60 billable… total hours) would help achieve this.

Firms are c*nts and won’t do that though.

Anonymous

By ‘c*nts’ you mean the people who are striving every day to increase profits in order to pay your wages and the wages of the colleagues who support you?

Anonymous

Hahahaha funny, pull another one mate

Anonymous

It’s true though. You deride ‘greed’ but it’s what keeps the economy running.

Enron

You hiring, matey?

Anonymous

Very odd way to put it. Partners expecting associates to work 70+ hours per week to drive their profits is what causes the issue.

A firm will train and hire associates that are willing to sacrifice physical and mental health working 70 hours per week because it means partners at the top of the pyramid can take home a 7 figure salary. For me a braver and more responsible model would be to drop the expectation to 40-50 hours and for partners to take home something in the ~200-300k region. To date it has never worked like that, but it would be possible for an efficient and well run firm could not adopt that more responsible model.

Anonymous

Spot on.

The key question is: ‘Why are people willing to sacrifice physical and mental health working 70 hours a week?’

Anonymous

This just doesn’t make sense. You can’t choose to work ’40-50 hours a week’.

Some work e.g. large public M&A, private equity necessitates 70 hours a week from associates. The working hours are intrinsic to the type of work; you can’t just decide that everyone is working less.

If the partners decided that associates would only work ’40-50 hours a week’ large clients wouldn’t come to them the kind of work they need doing, and the firm wouldn’t exist.

It’s like Corbynites who say we should increase income taxes on millionaires to get more money to pay for the NHS. It just doesn’t work like that: people will just avoid tax, work less or leave the UK.

Anonymous

What you have said is only true if you are in a line of work where an associate has intimate knowledge of one or two ongoing cases. The system as it is can and should be challenged where possible.

All too often you will have somebody in corporate working on 6 or 7 deals at once, or somebody doing something contentious with 6 to 7 cases on the go. Cut it down to 4 per person by resourcing more staff and your hours per associate drop from 70 to 50.

The working hours are intrinsic to keeping PEP at £1m, not to getting the work done and providing good service to clients. Tired eyes of an associate working their 70th hour of the week at £300-500/hour is not good value for the client.

What is actually stopping a more responsible and sustainable model is finding a partner of the calibre to bring in clients that is willing to work for, say, £700k rather than £1m due to the “inefficiencies” and increased overheads of having more associates working fewer hours.

Anonymous

Exactly.

You can reduce a partner salary and use the money to pay for an(other) associate(s) to bring down the workload for all other associates.

It’s just about finding partners willing to earn £500k instead of £1m.

Anonymous

If you’re not growing into the biggest and best law firm you’re shrinking into the smallest and worst law firm. You need to be like my really big hands which keep growing bigger and better every day.

Anonymous

LLL

Anonymous

DDD

Anonymous

If pep is 200-300k at a firm doing upper tier commercial work the partners with strong client followings who are bringing the work in will simply move to a competitor firm with higher pep, taking the clients with them.

The firm wouldn’t last long.

Anonymous

A total attitudinal shift is what is required.

People need to realise that life is very short, our health is precious and that incremental salary increases in exchange for zero work/life balance is not worth it.

Will working 80 hours a week instead of 50 hours a week make you happier? Spending time with friends, family, doing fun things or just relaxing is what is makes us happy.

Anonymous

Exactly this.

One thing to consider is that a lot of firms lose a lot of good people because they come to the realisation that it just isn’t worth it. There is a large pool to very talented individuals who could make a firm that introduced a 50 hour weekly cap.

Anonymous

Exactly. I trained in the MC and a lot of my friends who have now left regret it. Wasted time you’ll never get back.

Anonymous

NQ wedge at Dorsey & Whitney? Got an interview there next week but don’t want to ask.

Anonymous

Recently upped to £155k. Top top titan moneylaw firm.

Kirkland NQ

Wait what? Which recruiter did you use?

Anonymous

This is false news.

It is £135k for men and £115k for women.

Anonymous

Let’s see an overhaul of grievance procedures to ensure that harassment complaints aren’t used as a weapon by complainants and HR staff to inflict mental health injuries on employees.

Honestly it’s true

DWF are attempting to improve lawyer wellbeing. They are making everyone redundant and turning their offices into food halls.

With the MP wearing a big bird outfit and serving curly fries.

Legal Rec

The problem is not one that can possibly be fixed by one or two firms. You need everybody to be on the same page. A Partner will simply go and get paid more elsewhere, a client will go to somebody who will get the work done quicker for them. Also, don’t forget that a drop in PEP would not only drop that one Partner’s salary, should he make additional hires, it would effect everybody that is a part of the equity and they wouldn’t allow that.

A lot of people here have some nice ideas, but the truth is that unless firms unite in the way they have about gender, diversity etc then it won’t improve because the Directors at JP Morgan and other similar sized organisations don’t care about a 2PQE lawyer working long hours. Harsh but true.

Legal Rec

Affect*

Anonymous

Mental health at law firms will improve when they make genuine efforts at reducing the blame culture in law firms. Everything else is window dressing.

Anon

Wow. The experiences of these associates behind the bravado is horrible. I’m quite glad I didn’t get a training contract in the end. Life’s too short to spend living miserably.

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