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Exclusive: City law firm asks trainees to pull all nighter days after promising to support lawyers mental health

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Leaked email sent late on Friday tells trainees who said no that they must ‘provide evidence’ of their ‘inability to help’

sleeping lawyers

A top City law firm asked a group of its trainees to pull an all nighter just days after publically promising to support its lawyers’ mental wellbeing, Legal Cheek can reveal. The firm, which we have chosen not to name, then asked rookies who didn’t volunteer to “provide evidence” of their inability to help.

In an email leaked to Legal Cheek (pictured below), an associate requested urgent support with a document review task for the firm’s Tokyo office. The message — fired off at 4:43pm last Friday (ouch!) — asks that trainees who “have [the] capacity to assist” to get in touch.

A screenshot of the first email

In a follow-up email (pictured below), again leaked to us, a partner in the firm’s London office promptly responds to the request and tells trainees who decline that they will need to need to “be prepared to provide evidence” of their “inability to help”. This, according to the partner, includes “other business critical commitments this afternoon/evening and tomorrow morning, including details of those commitments.”

A screenshot of the of the follow-up email

Legal Cheek understands that the follow-up email was already being investigated internally before being leaked to us and that the partner in question has since been spoken to. As for the trainee volunteers, it is understood they were reviewing documents until 4:30am and were back up at 8am on Saturday to finish the job off.

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While accepting that long hours were part and parcel of City life, a source told us that the partner’s email was not particularly well-received given it came just days after the outfit publically marked World Mental Health Day by trumpeting its support for good wellbeing in the workplace. The insider continued:

“Trainees were terrified to leave the office as their plans were only to go home and see family or a weekend trip abroad. I felt pissed off that this follow-up request was only 20 mins behind the original [email].”

Wellbeing in the profession has become somewhat of a hot topic in recent years.

Last year, research produced by the Junior Lawyers Division showed that the percentage of rookie solicitors who have experienced mental health problems had more than doubled over the past year. This came on the back of a number of highly-publicised Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal cases in which solicitors cited mental health and stress-related issues.

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193 Comments

Anonymous

Name and shame!

(172)(3)

Anonymous

Can confirm that is not CC

(6)(1)

Anonymous

How come they’re using the CC distro list style then?

(3)(0)

Anonymous

To be fair, the list style is common.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

“We have chosen not to name”????

SHITE JOURNALISM, LC.

We expect better.

(45)(4)

Anonymous

Do we really expect better…

(18)(1)

Granny Grammar

We expect better punctuation!

Where was your question mark?

(5)(4)

Pupil barrister

“Shame”? Nothing shameful about that. They all knew what they were signing up for.

(18)(59)

Anonymous

Irwin Mitchell

(15)(2)

X

Its Baker McKenzie – the *LON – email list gives it away.

(16)(0)

X

(ex- BM here, hence why recognise it)

(2)(0)

Anonymous

That path identifier is really not distinctive. I’ve seen the same used in another firm.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Why is this firm being protected? This is absolutely despicable behaviour that deserves to be outed.

(189)(3)

Anonymous

The firm name shares synergies with a large red dog.

(105)(2)

No Idea

… I still don’t get it.

(3)(19)

Anonymous

Magic Circle, two names, each with the same first letter.

Or just scroll down.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

Cliff…….

(6)(0)

Girl

Clifford the big red dog..?

(3)(0)

Anonymous

CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG!!!!

Now, that still doesn’t help me work out which firm it is.

Perhaps a clue would give us a chance?

(61)(3)

CC

I can tell it’s not Clifford Chance bij the * in the DL address.

(7)(0)

Manuel

Que?

Anonymous

The firm in question actually shares synergies with half-baked litigants-in-person…

(6)(3)

Anonymous

Half baked litigants in person…

Chancers.

Big red dog….

Clifford.

No. Still need a clue…

(0)(0)

Cheekylegal

It’s linklaters. They were the one that celebrated world mental health day 2018.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Not the only firm… scroll down further.

(1)(0)

Solicitor (London)

This is a complete non-story. Providing urgent and often overnight assistance is inevitably part of life as a city firm trainee and unfortunately plans sometimes have to be cancelled. I’d only be concerned if the firm expected this on a regular basis and didn’t appreciate the effort / sacrifice of the trainees in question. What firms do to support mental health has to be seen in the round rather than through isolated incidents.

(33)(148)

Anonymous

I agree the initial request is a non-story. I think the semi-interesting point is the Partner’s follow-up.

It’s just a bit twattish – I wouldn’t doubt their authority to take that line, but it creates a really shit culture and ultimately no one’s going to want to work in this partner’s team if this is their style.

(159)(2)

Anonymous

Agreed that this is sometimes part of life in the City. However I think the pressing point is the Partners follow up, which emphasis’ the fact that well-being in the office is not looked after as some external propaganda suggests. The pressure that comes with ‘volunteer for this’ and then ‘provide evidence that you can’t’ is so contradictory and bad for well-being.

(53)(3)

Anonymous

emphasises*

(3)(5)

Anonymous

It’s not so much the urgent and overnight assistance as much as it is the partner’s ridiculous demand to provide evidence.

(10)(0)

Anonymous

The trainees will most likely be informally collectively held to account by the other partners for this leak and simply not kept on.

Sadly, this is the reality of our profession.

(30)(1)

Anonymous

There is a direct breach of the night worker provisions of the Working Time Regulations, even on the simple version set out in the article. This is potentially a whistleblower situation for any employee that reported it, and also reportable to the SRA.

Incidentally, the HSE, in investigations of regular such breaches (I am not sure if this is or isn’t) will not countenance breaches on the basis of particular industries ie that’s the way it is in city law firms.

(31)(13)

Anonymous

In the employment contracts they specifically contract out of the Working Times Regulations.

(32)(2)

Anonymous

Under the WTD an employee is only able to contract out of the 48 hour working week, they are unable to contract out of any other provisions, including rest days, night worker protections, and minimum breaks, all of which seem to be affected here.

(27)(0)

Anonymous

You can opt back in as well. Opt out cannot be a condition of employment

(2)(0)

Overies

I would presume most City firm (and in general) employment contracts have a contract-out clause for WTR. This is to allow people to work to the needs of the firm where it is business critical, instead of maxing out at 48 hours and not being able to work anymore.

Your point is therefore unlikely to be a reality, or viable. This is not dealing with Whistleblowing, just the breach of WTR point.

(9)(6)

Anonymous

You can’t contract out of the WTR in their entirety, only the 48-hour week.

(15)(1)

Anonymous

In respect of the viability of the point above, it is only not viable on the culture, not the legal position.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Trainees have sold their soul – emails likes this are part and parcel of life in the City.

(17)(20)

Anonymous

They’re not. I’ve worked in the City for a while, including at the firm in question and have never received an email like the second one.

Usually, enough people volunteer for the first email (I have in the past) for it to be fine. If they don’t, individual requests are made, but things like holidays etc are taken into account.

(16)(2)

Anonymous

Mad that it’s even a question of whether you can justifiably not work on a Saturday. You shouldn’t need an excuse at all.

(23)(3)

Anonymous

Clifford Chance has a Tokyo office

(55)(1)

Anonymous

Legal cheek has plenty of events with CC no wonder they wouldn’t name them.

(67)(1)

Anonymous

Gonna be interesting to see how many of these comments LC are prepared to censor in order to protect CC haha.

(33)(0)

Anonymous

To everyone saying this is terrible journalism, big boy newspapers do this kind of thing all the time. They don’t cover stories which don’t suit their owners or big advertisers – not unique to this rag.

(8)(3)

Anonymous

Not sure this is CC – that’s not what their email distros look like.

(4)(1)

Anonymous

It’s not CC you muppets

(17)(6)

Anonymous

Hi CC PR team, welcome to A Bad Day In The Office, starring you.

(60)(2)

Anonymous

Agree with you, it’s not CC. They use a different email interface

(18)(9)

Anonymous

Indeed, it’s the “global law firm with a personal touch and a friendly approach”

(1)(1)

Anonymous

“Other business critical commitments “ basically, this reads as if it’s not work related you won’t be excused from volunteering etc. After all, don’t forget that nothing is more important than work when you’re a trainee in a city firm!

(9)(2)

Anonymous

That’s precisely what it means – the partner is saying that anything not work-related (close friend’s wedding, birth of a child, parent’s funeral etc) wouldn’t be a sufficient excuse.

I think that’s what people are really objecting to here.

(37)(1)

Annonymous

This is Herbert Smith Freehills. Thank me later.

(41)(8)

Anonymous

Who’s the partner?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

No, I’ll thank you now. Thank you.

(10)(0)

Anonymous

This happened in a “top city law firm”. Think that rules out herbies lol

(29)(7)

Anonymous

Pretty sure the best litigation firm in the city qualifies as a “top city law firm”…

(11)(14)

Anonymous

Get over yourself. Litigation aint shit.

(1)(17)

Anonymous

All firms are top at legal cheek

(24)(0)

Anonymous

Provided they provide sponsorship, of course…

💷💷💷💷💷💷💷💷💷💷💷💷💷💷💷💷💷💷💷💷💷💷

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Well that email distribution list isn’t an HSF one, so probably not.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

No reason not to name and shame… Shoddy journalism.

Yes, it’s part of the profession, everyone who signs up knows that. The point is you can’t have it both ways – either you’re honest about the work environment or you’re just using mental health awareness and other socially topical issues to lie about what you’re doing.

Everyone knows the health risks of smoking. Still doesn’t mean you’re allowed to go around telling people the opposite.

(12)(1)

Anonymous

Hardly an isolated incident. If lawyers were good managers they could have made some work overnight while others took over in the morning. Operational management is a skill the profession needs to develop.

(32)(0)

Just a Junior Barristers Clerk

Ditto. Time management and project management is non-existent in Law firms. Simple time-saving tasks such as planning a week ahead are overseen. We need to stop fighting bushfires and actually start properly planning.

(13)(0)

Barry G

Law students aiming at City firms: read this story and the replies over and over again, and ask yourself if you are really worth so little to this world that you want to sign up to this life.

A few of my friends embarked on it. Every single one was miserable, and every single on left within five years. Don’t do it. It’s not too late.

Forget the supposed status, and the money, and the “intellectual challenge” (lol). The only people who recommend it are brainwashed losers who don’t have the guts or the self-respect to admit the truth.

(80)(2)

Anonymous

Yep much better off working as an (often unpaid) paralegal for 5 years just to have a sniff at doing mags appearances for £50 a day

(17)(8)

Anonymous

There are a vast number of careers obtainable with a law degree beyond being a solicitor or a paralegal. Most pay more generously and obviously have far better working conditions. Another bonus is that you aren’t surrounded by cringey legal career-whores either. Let’s face it, most city law firms look like the reject bin for ‘the apprentice’.

(1)(0)

Dangermouse

I don’t mean to be facetious, but is it a common issue in these firms that junior staff leave en masse? All I ever hear is that *everybody leaves*. How can they continue to function?

(3)(0)

Ex MC Associate

Lateral hires from other firms who don’t know or aren’t warned what it’s like and want the prestige, the 30% or so of the intake who are true sociopaths/workaholics who don’t mind the hours.

In my intake I noticed everyone with a personality or a personal life left within about 3 years of qualification (yes I was one of the last to leave).

(7)(1)

Anonymous

The people who stay aren’t sociopaths or workaholics. They’re high performers groomed for promotion by partners. Those who leave probably didn’t have great prospects anyway.

(8)(31)

Anonymous

The people who stay clearly don’t have a nice wife or husband to return home to in the evening.

Anonymous

“…They’re high performers groomed for promotion by partners.”

No. Really, no, they’re not high performers. They’re unimaginative careerist doormats who lack any sense of self-worth.

Sertraline addicted trainee

High performers, my b0770cks.

Definitely, devoid of a life, and/or personality….

Doc review… Such a high performance task and so cerebrally challenging…

Anonymous

Well, the senior associates I worked with were intelligent, personable and well rounded. The bots get eliminated. They do exist, but they’re not promoted.

Sad Truth.

If they were “intelligent and well rounded” they’d be at the Bar.

Not filing and pushing papers

Anonymous

True facts. My one abiding memory of a CC vac scheme I went on was a lovely blonde associate who said to me “why don’t you apply for the Bar instead, it’s much better”. I did, and 10 years on I’m very glad I did.

(35)(5)

anonymouse

Today, on “stories that never happened”…

(24)(1)

Stallone of Counsel

Cool story, Bar

(1)(0)

Barry G

I love the way Legal Cheek won’t name the firm. No doubt worried about sponsorship etc among these sorts of places. But they publish loads of articles about diversity and Brenda Hale so they’re doing God’s work really, right?

(33)(1)

Anonymous

It’s interesting because usually they’re v keen to name and shame. Must be a particular reason they’ve not done so in this case.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

“The firm, which we have chosen not to name…”

Why’s that then?

(8)(0)

Anonymous

They’ll be a sponsor of Legal Cheek, 100%.

(21)(0)

Anonymous

My shop recently invited me to the Christmas party. If declining the invitation, we had to give reasons!

(9)(0)

Anonymous

Tell them you don’t believe in Santa.

(20)(0)

Anonymous

I’m not prepared to lie.

(51)(0)

Anonymous

LC clearly don’t want to lose their sponsorship monies by naming and shaming the firm that rhymes with Blifford Bhance

(13)(0)

Anonymous

Surely the fact that they aren’t named is because they sponsor Legal Cheek?

How stunningly pathetic if so. For a source of journalism, the lack of journalistic integrity is impressive. Tom you’re a joke within your own profession.

(15)(1)

Comments are closed.

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