Editor's Letter

‘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

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

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

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 …

Simon Ward: The importance of local knowledge

Interview with...

Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle’s Oman managing partner discusses collegiality, why the Middle East shouldn’t be a training ground, and advises junior lawyers on why they shouldn’t solely focus on getting ahead

How would you define your firm’s culture and how important is firm culture to you? Curtis is the world’s longest established international law firm. It is New York headquartered, but extremely international in its outlook. Curtis recruits the brightest lawyers from diverse backgrounds a large proportion of our partners in the US and elsewhere are …

Dr Barbara Mayer: Lawyers develop best if given freedom

Interview with...

Responsibility and independence at an early stage is a great way to retain talent and also sets you apart from the competition, says Friedrich Graf von Westphalen’s managing partner

How would you define your firm’s culture? How important is that culture to you? Every individual in our firm trainees, assistants, associates, and partners – shows a high degree of responsibility and independence; we define management as a coordination and service point for our partners; our leadership works bottom up instead of top down; we …

Louis de Gabriele: Add more value to your advice

Interview with...

Be less emotional and more rational, although at times it is just as rewarding to be emotional, the Camilleri Preziosi partner tells his younger self

What has been your greatest achievement, in a professional and personal capacity? The greatest professional achievement in my career is having started from a small two-man show and to build, together with Henri Mizzi, Camilleri Preziosi into the top-tier, highly-respected law firm it is today. From a purely personal perspective it’s having been a first …

Lifting the lid on trade secrets

Innovation

John van der Luit-Drummond talks to Greenberg Traurig shareholder Jordan Grotzinger on the inspiration for and challenges of creating the Trade Secret Law Evolution Podcast, and why lawyers should avoid being ‘internet noise’

Jordan, you’re a trial lawyer focusing on trade secret law, consumer class action defence, financial services, and entertainment litigation. Why, out of all those areas of practice, did you choose trade secret law as the subject for a podcast? Because trade secrets drive some of the most innovative businesses. Innovation and the evolution of products …