Hogan Lovells to review stress management in wake of partner's suicide

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  • Wonder what will happen to those sleeping pods in the base of this firm's office? It's the poor and over worked assistants that they should worry about...

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  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b039rqqh Sleepless in the City - Very applicable to juniors and partners in law firms

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  • By coincidence I was just reading an article on firms' efforts on stress management and wellbeing in the LSG and it struck me then that much of the efforts firms make address the symptoms of stress rathern than the cause.

    The relentless drive for more money and higher PEP is a mjor cause of stress.

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  • A point that came out of the press articles was that David was being hounded by calls and emails on his BlackBerry while trying to enjoy a Valentines Day meal with his wife, the night before he died. There is a singular failure by law firms and clients alike to recognise the enormous levels of stress placed on individual lawyers at all levels as a result of this "on demand" culture. One simply cannot get away from the trials and tribulations of the job long enough to spend the type of quality time with family and with yourself, that is required to balance and refresh. It is little wonder that David had lost perspective on the matter that troubled him, and ultimately led to his tragic death.

    As a senior MC lawyer and someone who is dedicated to his job and clients, but at the same time values his family and understands that people have personal and emotional obligations outside work, I would welcome a better understanding of when it is appropriate to expect a lawyer to be available and "on call". The ownership of a mobile phone or BlackBerry does not on its own mean a possessor relationship between the firm/client and the individual. VW have got this right - their BB servers shut down between evening and morning hours, at the insistance of the unions.

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  • From the report on this in The Times it seems that it was concern about a mistake he may or may not have made which may have caused him to commit suicide. Stress over a perceived mistake is something which many of us will have experienced and will have struggled to put into perspective - the culture of being constantly available doesn't help with this.

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  • I feel genuinely very sorry for David and his family. As a solicitor who has suffered throughout his professional career from sporadic bouts of depression, I came to see the light that private practice in a MC firm was utterly inconsistent for me with any form of happy home life and I went in house. Sure, I get paid less, but I have time to pursue my interests outside of work and see my (first) wife and children regularly. Legal Realist's comment above conspicuously fails to recognise that perhaps the high levels of expectation bear a relationship to the 30 times national average salary - perhaps the "on demand" culture to which she/he refers is driven by the high cost of the service.

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  • Very sad.

    In my days working for a top 10 firm everything was built around deliberately increasing stress on the junior staff. A senior associate admitted that would try to confuse assistants and associates with lots of small important tasks with short deadlines in order to 'separate the wheat from the chaff". One partner made a point of always calling with questions when you had the temerity to take leave; he did it nine times on the trot so I can't imagine it was anything other than deliberate (and it was known as "Stephen's Strategy" within the office). Another partner mentioned that he had encouraged a staff member to go for a house that he couldn't really afford as it'll make him a better worker. It was very open towards junior staff, but I also imagine the same pressure ran through every level of the firm.

    This is the culture across many law firms so there will be casualties. However the rationale at the moment is that this is okay providing a few people at the top become multi-millionaires.

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  • Thanks, "Anonymous" @ 12:42pm for your comment. So if people have a skill-set that others are willing to pay for (as a partner at a law firm operating at the top of his or her field clearly does), they deserve to be hounded day and night by their colleagues and clients until (a) they go in-house, or (b) they kill themselves? What a strange view of the world you must have - a client employs a firm, not an individual, and it is up to both to have regard for the way they treat individuals. Sadly, you (conspicuously) fail to recognise this.

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  • It is extremely unlikely in the current environment that we will manage to get away from the "on demand" culture. Surely the more important issue is the extent to which this is actually called upon for any given individual.

    If individual firms can not deal with this sufficiently to impose reasonable limits at all levels on working hours and availability is formal regulation necessary? Junior doctors now have their maximum hours vastly reduced in comparison with the position that obtained a few years ago.

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  • Two observations:-

    1. Teflon-plated 400 lb gorillas are immune from depression because they do not care; and

    2. (For the rest of us) it is a slippery slope and you can be sliding-down it without realising.

    Sympathies to the family.

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