Editor's Letter

October 2019 issue front cover image (scaled)

‘Wellbeing, mental health, and anxiety should be seen as core business issues for law firms with clear and evidenced benefits in terms of costs, retention, and recruitment,’ according to recent research from Professor Richard Collier at Newcastle University Law School.

The research, published in June, found that despite a greater visibility of wellbeing and mental health agendas in the legal profession, there remains ‘a pervasive cultural stigma around disclosing mental health problems in the legal community’; that the sector’s approach to date has largely been to ‘encourage individual lawyers to do something about their own wellbeing whilst not addressing the broader causes of their distress’; and that those in leadership positions experiencing poor wellbeing were seen ‘to adversely impact the wellbeing of those “further down”’.

Thursday 10 October marked World Mental Health Day, the aim of which, according to the World Health Organization, is to raise awareness of mental health issues and provides an opportunity for individuals and businesses to talk about their work championing better mental health and wellbeing practices, and to discuss what more needs to be done to help those suffering with poor mental health worldwide.

In standalone articles and partner interviews, fivehundred has previously discussed various wellbeing issues facing lawyers; we even had a special focus on mental ill-health in our May issue to tie in with the UK’s Mental Health Awareness Week. But mental health and wellbeing in the profession should never be something we touch on just once a year, only to forget about until the next ‘touchpoint’ in the calendar. It is an ongoing, serious topic that should be recognised and confronted by both legal businesses and the publications that write for and about them.

With that in mind, this month’s big issue once again focuses on the crisis affecting legal professionals worldwide. We hear from Herbert Smith Freehills’ Chris Parsons on his struggles with stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as the importance of fighting stigma and creating a more inclusive and supportive workplace, while Dentons’ new Europe chief mindfulness officer, Karina Furga-Dabrowska, talks about the shame of showing vulnerability and recognising the fine line between healthy and unhealthy stress.

We also report from The Legal 500’s recent Wellbeing at the Bar roundtable, where a host of barristers, from baby juniors through to eminent silks, discussed the challenging nature of their practice areas, the general stresses and strains of the independent Bar, as well as offering some top tips on how to improve your wellbeing.

Also in this October issue, we have exclusive interviews with Norton Rose Fulbright’s Stéphanie Hamon, head of its new legal operations consulting practice; Kennedys’ first global managing partner, Suzanne Liversidge, discusses the priorities of her new role; and Nestlé GC Charles Broll shares his views on diversity in law, nurturing talent, and what he looks for in outside counsel.

There is all that and much, much more in the latest fivehundred. And remember, if you would like to contribute to future issues of the magazine, then please get in touch.

John van der Luit-Drummond

Being trans in law

The Bar

Old Square Chambers’ Robin Moira White looks back at her journey to coming out as transgender and offers advice to other lawyers fearful of being their true selves

Anyone who has taken a rollercoaster ride will know that gut-wrenching moment as you go over the first drop and your internal organs become weightless. It’s the closest way I can describe that feeling in the summer of 2011 when I went up chambers’ front steps for the first time as my true, female self. …

Directory mentions – you could do so much more with them


Melissa Davis admonishes those lawyers, law firms, and chambers failing to capitalise on their directory rankings

Taking entries and interviews for the legal directories is a serious commitment by law firms and chambers. For many, the cost of supplementing an editorial mention with a firm or individual directory listing is dwarfed by the internal resource they have dedicated –perhaps a third of a marketing or PR staff member’s year and valuable …

Going against the grain

Interview with...

In a series of interviews with some of the top GCs across the US, fivehundred provides insights into the priorities and motivations of the influential in-house lawyers who are included in The Legal 500’s 2019 United States GC Powerlist For this month’s interview, Helen Donegan (US Editor (content)) spoke with Charles Broll (executive vice president and general counsel at Nestlé Waters North America) who shares his views on what matters most to him in his work and in the people he works with, and he reveals what he believes his career highlights will be.

Helen Donegan: To start off, can you tell me about your role? Charles Broll: I am the General Counsel of Nestlé Waters North America. We are a subsidiary of Nestlé and a part of a much larger Nestlé business around the globe and our products include Perrier, San Pellegrino, and Poland Spring. My responsibility is …

The natural evolution of legal services

Interview with...

In August, Norton Rose Fulbright launched a new legal operations consulting practice led by former Barclays legal executive Stéphanie Hamon. As she tells The Legal 500’s senior research analyst, Peter Tweedley, Hamon intends the practice to provide management and operational advice to in-house legal teams at major financial institutions and corporations, and explains its likely impact on rival legal businesses

  Peter Tweedley: In a growing market of alternative legal service providers and specialist legal technology companies, including consultants, what can a law firm bring to the table? Stéphanie Hamon: Legal operations consulting is a relatively new field of expertise and there is a limited pool of experienced talent who can deliver this advice. A …

Vulnerability is empowering

The Big issue

Talking about mental health issues is difficult for us all,
especially lawyers. Chris Parsons is the chair of Herbert Smith Freehills’ India practice group, a mental health champion, and someone who can speak from personal experience about the challenges of practising law while struggling with stress, anxiety, and depression.

Parsons first shared his personal struggles, medication, and experience of mental ill-health during the ‘This is Me’ campaign a City of London initiative aiming to encourage openness on the subject and address the stigma attached to mental illness. Since then, Chris has travelled to different countries to conduct deeper conversations and deliver trainings on the …

A sea change for cross-examination?

The Bar

No5 Barristers’ Chambers’ Michelle Heeley QC looks at the treatment of vulnerable people in the criminal justice system and the soon-to-be mandatory training designed to protect them in court

For the last two years, the Inns of Court College of Advocacy has been rolling out a training programme to teach practitioners how to deal with vulnerable witnesses. The move has been in response to criticism about how vulnerable witnesses are treated within the criminal justice system. The Crown Prosecution Service expects all counsel who …

A battle-scarred Bar

The Big Issue: Wellbeing

John van der Luit-Drummond talks to barristers about stresses and strains at the independent Bar and the impact different work has on their wellbeing and mental health

‘It starts the first day you are sent to the magistrates’ court as a second six pupil,’ explained Red Lion’s Edmund Vickers QC. ‘Someone has been arrested overnight on a rape charge and you are there to fill out the legal aid forms and apply for bail. You have someone’s liberty in your hands and …

Good wellbeing starts with good leadership


EMEA editor Ella Marshall talks to Dentons’ new Europe chief mindfulness officer, Karina Furga-Dabrowska, on the modern pressures faced by lawyers and how law firms can better combat poor mental health and wellbeing among their workforces

Karina, you’ve been a lawyer for 20 years, how has the profession changed in terms of the pressure placed on lawyers? Lawyers today operate under a heightened sense of urgency, which creates more stress. Clients want answers immediately (yesterday was too late!) and they demand lower fees so we are constantly striving to be faster, …

The importance of supportive leadership


Sarah Nelson Smith is the Regional General Counsel for WeWork, an international company that transforms buildings into collaborative workspaces and communities. While in her previous role as Chief Legal Officer of Kentucky Fried Chicken, she helped to steer the company successfully through the #chickencrisis of 2018, when a distribution failure led to the closure of the majority of the KFC restaurants in the UK. In an exclusive extract from her new book You Didn’t Mention The Piranhas, Sarah writes candidly about how it feels to be in the middle of a PR crisis

In the second week of the crisis, the snow came. It had toyed with us for several days, threatening a festive dusting, but then changed tack and engulfed the country in a thick white blanket, mocking the valiant efforts to get trucks loaded and onto the roads by rendering many of them impassable. I needed …

Suzanne Liversidge: Leaders should be true to themselves

Interview with...

Kennedys’ first global managing partner discusses the priorities of her new role, highlights the firm’s recent international expansion, and reveals what gives her the most job satisfaction

What will you be focusing on as global managing partner, and what do you hope to accomplish or change at the firm that will benefit its lawyers, staff, and clients? As global managing partner, I will be working closely with Nick Thomas, our senior partner, on the strategic and operational management of Kennedys’ global network …