Charity tells corporate law firms to ‘actively step in’ and protect lawyers mental health

Avatar photo

By Legal Cheek on


Mindful Business Charter’s open letter follows death of City partner

A mental health charity has penned an open letter urging corporate law firms to prioritise the wellbeing of their staff, citing that “the legal profession suffers some of the highest levels of mental distress in society”.

The Mindful Business Charter’s letter states that “the old adage that hard work never killed anyone is simply not true,” citing long working hours, lack of sleep and “disconnection from the ones we love” as contributing factors to poor mental wellbeing in the profession.

It adds that “the tsunami of change that is hitting the legal profession, not least through the impact of AI, runs the very real risk of making the situation worse”. This is because “change is likely to mean more pressure and demands on individuals”.

It follows the death of Pinsent Masons partner Vanessa Ford last year, who was reportedly working 18-hour days and through her holidays on the sale of Everton FC to a private equity firm. A coroner concluded that she had “consumed a significant amount of alcohol while experiencing an acute mental health crisis” before proceeding onto the tracks near the Dalston Lane road bridge, where she was struck by a train.

The 2024 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

The charity also notes that the levels of mental distress experienced in the industry is also in part due to the characteristics of those attracted to careers in the law being “diligent”, and “predisposed to overworking” and “subjugating their own needs”.

According to the letter, the legal industry “play[s] to those very personality characteristics”, having ended up with “reward structures which incentivise and champion them”.

As part of its call to action, The Mindful Business Charter urges firms to firstly “actively monitor the risk” posed to lawyers’ wellbeing. It suggests that firms should keep an eye on how many hours their lawyers are working, and whether they are getting enough sleep and downtime.

Exclusive Legal Cheek research conducted last year shed light on the working hours for trainee and junior solicitors, revealing that some frequently worked 12-hour days.

Where risk is identified, the charity urges firms to “actively step in, even against the wishes of individual lawyers concerned, to manage that risk”. This could involve “taking people off a project for a period, or adding additional resource to staff the project.” Ultimately, it states, “the project is never going to be more important than the lives of the people involved”.

It adds that “partners in our law firms need to have an honest discussion with each other as to their values and shared purpose and to the balance they are prepared to make between the profitability of the firm and the lives of the people who work in it, including their own.”

To individual lawyers, the open letter says “work is not more important than your health, your family or, for that matter, your integrity. It just isn’t. Be prepared to speak up and ask for what you need.”

If you are struggling with the stress of work you can contact LawCare via its helpline or live chat.



I work at a similar sized firm in the same practice area Vanessa Ford worked in and we have had literally no communications from either our head of department or the wider firm on this.

I didn’t know her, but I worked across from her, as did lots of my colleagues. Our team, like lots of transactional teams, deal with the same pressures.

I understand that it’s a sensitive subject to try and address, but someone has tragically died from the stresses of the jobs and still firms aren’t really showing they actually care about their employees well-being, or want to support them.

Ex-rat race

A few years back, my old law firm made a song and a dance about being one of the first signatories to the Mindful Business Charter, how important mental health was and how there would be mental health first aiders in every department. In a team meeting shortly after becoming a signatory, the corporate partner who sponsored all of these initiatives (and spouted wellbeing at every moment anyone would listen) explained to us how wonderful this all was and how important mental health is, however we had to remember that we were in a service industry and that our clients still expected a response 24/7 so to just bear that in mind.

It’s all lip service.


I am surprised that the SRA does not get involved in such important issues which harm members of the profession. Should the SRA be complicit in the abuse of their position by firms against their employees? They do get involved in petty nonsense.. such as a tweet that may or may not detrimentally affect the perception the public has on the profession. Yet, they fail to get involved in the treatment of trainees and solicitors by law firms they regulate. In fact, it is this behaviour and the silence/ non-interference by its regulator, which gives the profession a very bad name.

Defund the SRA

Funny how the SRA will do literally nothing meaningful to enact change on the partners that perpetuate toxic working cultures yet they’ll happily strike off a trainee for sneezing the wrong way


Speaking as a sleep deprived in-house counsel, do not assume the problem is confined to law firms.,
I worked all over Easter and have had two overnights in the last week – must’ve pulled well over 100 hours when I was supposed to be on holiday.


It goes- you must put your health first but just do this for me….
Family first- after work


It should be within the SRA’s remit, if its aim is to uphold high standards in the profession, for toxic culture of long working hours has a direct impact in Solicitor’s performance. The SRA cant just have an eager eye open to punish trainees and Solicitors for improper performance when they shut their eyes to how trainees and associates are sleep deprived… Protecting the public? How is this possible when they dont regulate toxic working culturex

Join the conversation

Related Stories

IBA releases guidance for law schools to safeguard student mental health

Wellbeing issues should not be sign of weakness, says International Bar Association

Mar 18 2024 8:14am

Young barristers report lower levels of overall wellbeing

Crime and family worst by practice area

Feb 7 2024 8:49am