City law chief advises firms to give lawyers workload ‘trigger warnings’

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By Rhys Duncan on


‘Something very serious is going on’ in the profession, says Colin Passmore

Law firms should look at providing “trigger warnings” around workloads for lawyers in order to help safeguard their mental health, a top City legal figure has suggested.

Chairman of the City of London Law Society (CLLS), Colin Passmore, has called for firms to step up and tackle issues around overworking and wellbeing.

A former senior partner at Simmons & Simmons, Passmore shared with The Telegraph that the recent death of senior lawyer Vanessa Ford, which an inquest found happened whilst she was suffering from “an acute mental health crisis”, triggered an “epiphany”. This, Passmore said, brought him to the realisation that “something very serious is going on” within the profession.

Legal Cheek data shows that some junior lawyers are clocking an average day of over 12 hours, with anecdotal evidence suggesting that neither weekends nor holidays are safe when there’s work on the table.

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Commenting on the suggestion that some lawyers are clocking up 3,000 hours a year, Passmore said:

“That is a massive amount of work on any basis. That is an amount of work that should send a trigger warning and that person needs to be spoken to and looked after as appropriate. Those sort of hours are massive. I suspect I won’t be hugely popular for saying things like that but if we are to address this then these are the things that need to be looked at.”

He went on to say that during his time as a lawyer, the maximum number of hours he worked in a year was 2,250, a figure that left him exhausted.

“While a number of lawyers may feel sufficiently resilient and sufficiently supported to get by, it is not good enough to assume that this is the case for everybody,” Passmore continued.

Whilst accepting that the legal profession can’t shift to a nine-to-five pattern, the ex-Simmons lawyer puts the emphasis on firms, rather than the regulator, to address the issues. “Frankly, if we are to avoid having the position dealt with by regulation, as some are suggesting, then we as responsible leaders must act and must act now: we cannot go on with a significant number of lawyers at all levels who are suffering from the way in which we now expect them to work.”

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



Interesting that Passmore says he never did more than 2,250 hours in a year. I’d like to know the maximum number of hours the juniors under him worked in a year.

Every Big Firm

Here’s your trigger warning kiddo…

For £100K+ a year we OWN you.

Now quit whinging and get back to work!


Furthermore he will still need to go to food banks to survive!


Corporate greed doesn’t agree with this article lol


I’m not sure the headline accurately reflects the quote in the article…?


I am already seeing more associates staffed onto deals and sharing the workload, and I think more partners should be added to assist on deals as well. I think this is the answer. It also improves team-working skills which are key in any career.


Grow up and own your decisions. You don’t have to work at a firm. That salary is not a gift. You have been warned. Oh, and the global non-profits work you just as hard.

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