HSF pays tribute to former corporate recovery head in wake of suicide

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has paid tribute to former corporate recovery head Stephen Gale after he committed suicide earlier this year. 

The firm paid tribute to a “hardworking and talented individual who was proud of this firm and his colleagues, and a man who went the extra mile for friends, clients and the numerous charities and causes he championed”.

The coroner at St Pancras Coroners Court ruled that Gale had taken his own life in February. According to media reports he had invested in two tax syndicates which were being investigated by HM Revenue and Customs, an inquest heard.

The firm said in a statement: ”Stephen’s professional life saw him advising on many important and high profile matters for the firm, including acting for Ernst & Young as administrators of Nortel’s European, Middle Eastern and African entities.

“He also advised JJB Sports on its groundbreaking restructuring and refinancing. In addition, Stephen acted for various Lehman creditors following that organisation’s bankruptcy.”

Gale had worked in insolvency since qualifying in 1981. He was a partner at Hammond Suddards from 1987, moving from Yorkshire in 1992 to set up the firm’s London office before being recruited by legacy Herbert Smith in 1998 to head the corporate recovery department. 

A year later he became president of the Society of Practitioners of Insolvency, only the second lawyer to do so (11 January 1999).

“Stephen was a great ambassador for Herbert Smith Freehills and gave time and energy to a number of important causes outside it,” the firm added. “These included Smartrisk and Pilotlight. Pilotlight supported a range of charities helping the vulnerable and socially excluded, and people with mental health and addiction issues.  He was instrumental in introducing the firm to Pilotlight and we were proud to partner with it and associated charities from 2009 to 2013.”

A growing number of UK law firms are pushing for better mental health care for lawyers and staff.

Hogan Lovells brought its counselling service on-site earlier this year (20 Febraury 2014). Last year the firm pledged to examine its policies and procedures around workplace stress in the wake of the death of IP partner David Latham (13 September 2013).

In November, Barclays’ head of compliance and regulatory relations Hector Sants resigned from the post after taking a temporary leave of absence due to stress and exhaustion (13 November 2013). According to UK mental health charity Mind, one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.

In September 2009 legacy Herbert Smith launched an internal training programme to help its staff recognise the symptoms of stress and deal with mental illness (28 September 2009).