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

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 …

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...

Barbara Mayer image

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


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 …

Spotlight on: Sheppard Mullin’s power moves

Spotlight on

Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton’s energy, infrastructure, and project finance team has risen from Tier 4 to Tier 2 in The Legal 500’s United States ‘Energy: Renewable/Alternative Power’ rankings between 2017 and 2019. Here, US editor (content), Helen Donegan, speaks with the team about its dramatic rise in the rankings, as well as the firm’s lateral hires and diversity and inclusion efforts

Helen Donegan: Please provide a brief overview of your practice. Sheppard Mullin: Jointly led by Chicago-based partner Katherine Gillespie and San Diego-based partner Tony Toranto, Sheppard Mullin’s multidisciplinary energy team includes more than 50 lawyers nationwide. We advise on tax equity financing, project development, regulatory matters, power purchase and sales contracts, and corporate and M&A …

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 …