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

  • Print
  • Comments (25)

Readers' comments (25)

  • 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...

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

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

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 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.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 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.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 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.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 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.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 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.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 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.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 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.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 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.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I'd just like to offer sympathy too to David's family, and to colleagues and friends.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Identifying and treating stress symptoms is like snipping heads off weeds. Root problems need identifying and replacing. Stress looks the same but roots (routes) are individual. Understanding and addressing personal sources, personal effects and current coping (all we do to cope that keeps it all going) is what matters, since all serve to maintain the problem, one's own personal signature on the stress experience.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Legal Realist. Blackberries can be turned off or left at home.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The whole profession should consider their approach to work in light of this and other deaths linked to stress.

    Every firm should be looking into the well being of their staff (if they're not, you have to wonder what their Human Resources team are doing). However responsibility is not simply limited to the corporate structures, every employee should be considering whether they are correctly positioned to meet the demands of the role and whether their workload could be handled in a manner that is better for their well being.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I feel very sorry for the young Associates who have to work sometimes round the clock. The Firm needs to look at the hours, they expect these Junior lawyers to work in the name of profit. HL wake up, you do not want another death on your hands.
    Pam P.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Q: How can you tell when someone is stressed to breaking point, on medication to support the most basic areas of life and in need of proactive tools to transform the situation (s)?

    A: With great difficulty.

    Conclusion - Life isn't going to get easier in terms of stress with the passing of time, it is going to get tougher so people need more than just support. They need to be able to understand how it happens and how to manage their response to situations as well as increasing resilience.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • IT tools are boosting productivity (hosted desktop, hosted software / files etc), and it is great that one can now work from anywhere, anytime from any device, but people need to manage their energy levels, companies cannot be held responsible for this. they provide us with empowering tech to do our work better, but they do not make us work all hours god gave us, that is our choice.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • To Anon | 14-Sep-2013 0:50 am - "Blackberries can be turned off or left at home.". That's easily said but not a great deal of help if you then get an almightly b*****king for not answering said Blackberry. The attitude referred to by Legal Realist above is the problem here. I once had strip torn off me by a partner for not responding to an (unexpected) email sent to me on Sunday night by 7 the next morning. Equally the clients of that firm expected to be able to get hold of me late at night and would complain to the partners if they couldn't so, of course, the pressure gets passed down the line. Don't know where the real blame is- with the partners who refuse to try and temper expectations, for example I was not allowed to ever set my out of office, for any reason, or the clients (and that usually means in house lawyers) who all demand immediate access/turn around even when there is no real urgency. Until there is a change of attitude as a profession we will continue to lose good lawyers to suicide and burn out.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Why should law firms provide stress training?

    I had a stressful job once. You know what: I left and got a less stressful one that paid less. You don't have to be a lawyer at a prestigious City law firm, you know.

    If someone is willing to pay you the best part of a million pounds a year, putting you in the top 0.1% of earners in the world, they may want something in return for that.

    I'm always amazed that more lawyers don't use their money to start their own ventures or pursue other business or entrepreneurial endeavours.

    Master of your own destiny - and less stressful when you're the boss.

    The problem is that they are risk-averse and want the guaranteed high salary and social prestige - that comes at a price.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I cut my teeth in a red blooded macho law firm. I was part of that culture I am ashamed to say and I did my share of passing on the pressure. I would delight in having to take that client call at antisocial hours, without realising that people around me were not admiring, rather than thinking I was a dick. I have since left for a better quality of life (to the utter bafflement of my former colleagues). I don’t earn much less (it is not inevitable that you will), but I spend lots of time with my family, don’t find myself at airports every other day, my kids recognise me and I have learnt something about client psychology. If I turn my mobile phone off for the weekend, clients (who have my home phone number) very occasionally will ring that number but will only do so if it is a genuine emergency because they recognise the intrusion (which does not apply to a mobile). Otherwise they will wait and none of them think any the less of me for it. On the contrary, I think that a client’s respect for a lawyer is inversely proportional to one’s confidence in not jumping simply because they say jump – it is human nature.
    I did my training in the City with a lovely man who was a great lawyer and worked in order to live (and not the opposite). He tried to tell me but I had to learn this for myself, so I am not sure how you educate people to understand this.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • My good friend Guy Foster also died whilst working for Lovells. I am not blaming them. RIP He will be forever missed. Clearly, there are a lot of unhappy people in the Law and it sounds as if Lovells are doing more than most to address this.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Thanks Former fool, interesting insight. Might I ask what you have moved to? Still at a law firm/in the City? Cheers.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • its not just lawyers at law firms but also in house lawyers and other professions / jobs. The companies need to give their employees the open forum to talk about the problems and the depression that they are suffering from and then help the employee to deal with it, whether this is professional help, time off (unpaid if need be) or simply helping them with their work schedule. I recently admitted to my employee that i had been suffering from depression for 2 years.......first they offered help and then within 2 weeks i was being offered an enhanced package to "look at other options". In other words they wanted to sweep it under the carpet. AND this is a company that preaches it looks after its employees!!!!!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Instead of laying on flowery training sessions on how to become resilient to stress, this firm needs to make a sharp culture change. For starters, the sleeping pods (read: dungeons) need to go. A loveless place indeed...

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This is a horrible tragedy. I am so glad I was able to get out of law and go into business. I was trained at a large Wall Street firm as a transactional/M&A guy, and later became a partner at a slightly smaller firm. I would often come home to my wife and young child totally stressed out and agitated. I ended up getting divorced. A while later, I looked into my soul and I just could not do the billable-hours game any more. Clients were often people who were really **achieving_ something in their life, whereas I was just turning the crank. No one's time is worth $1,000 an hour. It's just not. It's emasculating to have to bill clients for "0.1 hours" so that you can make billing quotas. All in all, just not a good way to live. Go out and take some risk and achieve something awesome!! Don't just wipe the a$$es of people who do, and handle their paperwork for them. When you're bouncing your grandchildren on your knee, you want to be telling them something epic. Even if you failed at it. Have passion and greatness, and don't just move the deck chairs around on someone else's boat.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

Mandatory Required Fields

Mandatory

Comments that are in breach or potential breach of our terms and conditions in particular clause 8, may not be published or, if published, may subsequently be taken down. In addition we may remove any comment where a complaint is made in respect of it. These actions are at our sole discretion.

  • Print
  • Comments (25)