Herbert Smith trains staff to spot stress

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  • How about training senior managment in law firms not to cause it. There is no way in the current climate that anyone from partner down can safely put their hands up to any perceived weaknesses even "legitimate" physical illnesses. Anyone foolishly encouraged to do so will soon see what happens to them.......

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  • Why don't more firms do this? Too often, law firms view stress and depression as someone else's problem or as a signs that staff 'can't cut it'. Most people, including partners, will suffer some sort of mental health issue at some point in their lives.
    It's time employers faced up to their responsibilities in this area.

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  • I would love to see a caring motive behind this but I suspect its nothing more than a cynical "arse-covering" measure suggested by insurers looking to defend themselves against the first test case on stress and the deluge that will inevitably follow. They know full well that no one in their right mind would admit to suffering from stress unless they are happy to never be in a position to get life cover, medical cover or any sort of insurance cover from the Firm itself. It's a ploy dressed up as a principle - wheeling out the PC gals with their right on sister moustaches doesn't change that...

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  • why not just treat staff as you would wish to be treated yourself?

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  • Maybe this is protesting too much, but can I encourage reflection on three suggestions: first, that the motives behind this and similar initiatives in other firms and organisations are not completely dismissed, or that'll just undermine their effectiveness: the second reader above has the issue in a nutshell- a huge proportion of the population suffers at some time or other from mental health problems; if these can be alleviated and employers be supportive, in most cases the individual can quickly return to good health and work; second, it seems self evident that work in law firms can be stressful (for lawyers and for those who support them) and that excessive stress can lead to physical and mental health problems; the training is designed to help partners and others to be increasingly aware of stress problems, so something can be done about them whether the stress relates to work, to something else or to a combination of factors; often stress from overwork is a result of under-resourcing of particular tasks, or lack of clarity as to what is expected of someone; third, if people are suffering from excessive stress they should raise it with someone who they think will be sympathetic: many partners at some stage in their careers, particularly when associates, have felt they were struggling with demands they could not meet and many have also seen the effect of mental health problems when not properly addressed. This is a complex issue and there are not always simple solutions, but if we can stop treating it as a taboo, can recognise that many staff and colleagues will suffer from mental health issues as well as physical health challenges, then there is a chance of some improvement. People tend not to shout about it, but there are plenty of successful lawyers (and clients) who have had to deal with depression or other mental health problems at some stage in their own careers. Recognising that these need to be addressed and cannot be ignored is I suggest not a bad thing, even though we will not emerge with perfect solutions or answers.

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  • Blah blah blah James. Put down your guitar, brush the lentils outta yer beard, hunker down onto your haunches and listen. Nobody doubts that the problem of stress exists or that the need for support exists - your sentiments are all right as far as I'm concerned. I'm just not buying in a climate like this that there is any sincere motive behind this "Road to Damascus" appreciation of the problem by Firms. Insurers are behind this, not Esther Rantzen or Miriam Stoppard.

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  • Why so cynical, Krusty? I am sure that management, tender and caring individuals that they are, are simply concerned about the wellbeing of their staff.

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  • Other firms have done it. My MC firm has a confidential helpline in place for all staff internationally (since Q1 this year) which offers counselling for staff. Given sensitivities, however, justified or not, the initiative has not been widely trumpeted to the press...

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  • If your business model is such that you expect people to work 80 hour weeks on a frequent basis to ensure that you meet your profitability targets, then you will cause stress as people give up their "normal" lives and focus all their efforts around work. Fundamentally, and inevitably, this will trigger damage. If James Palmer can confirm that he appreciates this, and that Herbert Smith are actively taking steps to deal with it, then there would be less cynicism around Herbert Smith's initiative. As it stands at the moment, this initiative looks little more than an effort to minimise the damage the firm has already caused, rather than to tackle the etiology of stress.

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  • I am a worker with previous career in mental health work and having left the sector am now back somewhere in 1950. The irony is that out of the 15 Partners I work for, at least 2 are going to experience exactly what it's like. Good luck.

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