Concerns for City lawyers’ wellbeing prompts call for action

updated on 18 March 2024

Elizabeth Rimmer, chief executive of charity LawCare, has called for law firm partners and other senior figures to “take responsibility for protecting mental health at work”, following growing concerns about lawyers’ wellbeing.

The death of Vanessa Ford, a partner at a major City firm, has prompted the discussion about long working hours and poor mental health procedures within the legal profession. Ford died the week after the conclusion of a major deal, which saw her working 18-hour days and feeling “intense guilt” about missing out on time with her children. Ford was killed by a train and had left a note expressing “a degree of helplessness”, according to British Transport Police. Laura Cameron, the firm’s managing partner, paid respect to Ford, pledging to “seek to make a positive lasting change” to provide better support in the workplace.

Managers at the firm told the inquest that Ford had raised no concerns about the stress she was facing. Similarly, a survey, completed by LawCare between 6 October 2020 and 15 January 2021, found that 69% of people had experienced ill mental health in the previous 12 months, but only half had talked about it at work. In addition, the report found that 80.2% of people with caring responsibilities are women and that women experience higher burnout.

Find out more about LawCare in this LCN Says, ‘Talk to LawCare: we understand life in the law’.

Rimmer states that this survey provides “compelling evidence” that accepted working practices are “undermining mental health”. Therefore, she’s calling for firms to “shift the approach from responding to problems when they arise to preventing them from happening in the first place”.

“People are the most valuable asset in any law firm and investing in safeguarding this asset should be a number one priority for all firms,” Rimmer adds.

Note from the LawCareers.Net content team: if you need support while at university, there are a number of places you can contact, including your university's support service, Nightline and Student Space. If you need support now, text SHOUT to 85258 to chat to a trained volunteer.