AllAboutLaw Blog: Addressing bullying and mental health in law firms, mounting legal challenges as Brexit looms, and more

This week’s edition of the AllAboutLaw Blog looks at the stigma surrounding mental health in the legal profession and the associated high levels of bullying and harassment. We also address the headlines surrounding the legal implications of Brexit and the chance for aspiring solicitors to work on their career development.

  • Last updated Sep 11, 2019 2:51:42 PM
  • Tuula Petersen
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Mental health in the legal profession

The legal profession is notorious for maintaining a culture of high pressure and stress. More often than not employees in the legal industry are inundated with urgent and important tasks that need addressing right away. This environment fosters unhealthy stress levels and can potentially lead to mental health problems.

Several large law firms have started to address the topic of mental health by introducing a selection of resources for legal professionals, including on-site mental health professionals and wellness applications. However, it has been reported these mental health resources are not distributed across the firm. A survey found that 36% of firms do not extend their mental health programmes to professional staff, further emphasising the idea of a power hierarchy in law firms.

Even though large law firms have started to incorporate mental health resources in the office for their lawyers, it is often the case that lawyers choose to disregard such assistance, claiming the acknowledgement or display of strong emotions reflects weakness. The experience of negative emotions, such as anxiety, burnout, or depression, are often accompanied by a sense of shame. This stigma surrounding the topic of mental health is important to overcome if law firms wish to improve employee wellbeing.

Moreover, a report released in May stated the extent of bullying and sexual harassment in the legal profession. The study found that 62% of female respondents and 41% of male respondents reported that they had been bullied in connection with their employment. This further contributes to the portrayal of the legal profession as a stressful environment in which issues of mental health need to be addressed.

To address these shocking statistics, the Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has teamed up with Silicon Valley tech company to launch an app, called Spot. Spot is aimed at tackling bullying and harassment by enabling barristers to report their experiences of any inappropriate moments at work quickly and easily. According to research, harassment and discrimination are under-reported across many industries, preventing professionals to work in “inclusive, diverse and respectful” environments. Spot will be available for barristers to use this autumn. 

 

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Firm news

Hogan Lovells has published its Corporate Insurance Newsletter providing an overview of UK, EU and international regulatory developments relevant to UK based insurance market participants.

The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) has revealed the winners of its second annual National Awards with Trowers & Hamlins winning in diversity and inclusion and Lyons Davidson Limited winning law firm of the year.

Dentons has announced its fourth and fifth merger in one month, by partnering with Argentinian firm Rattagan Machiavello Arocena and Jiménez de Areéchaga, Viana & Brause in Uruguay.

The Legal Access Challenge, delivered by Nesta Challenges in partnership with the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which aims to help more people access legal support through digital technology, is now open.

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“There is no magic to achievement. It’s really about hard work, choices and persistence”.

Michelle Obama—American lawyer, writer, and former First Lady of the United States from 2009-2017.

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Brexit legal troubles continue to grow 

It is another headline week for all legal matters relating to Brexit. 

The High Court has ruled in favour of the current government, declaring the decision to suspend parliament was lawful. The decision is a result of a case brought to the High Court by Gina Miller, who argued that the suspension of parliament was “an unlawful abuse of power”. She has immediately appealed the decision, which will be heard at the Supreme Court on 17 September.

Further, a law instigated by Parliament in a bid to stop the UK exiting the EU with a no-deal on 31 October has gained royal assent on Monday. Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, has criticised the piece of legislation, declaring the current government will test just how far it can be interpreted. However, it is alleged Boris Johnson is considering sending a letter to the EU declaring the government does not want to delay Brexit, in addition to filing a request to extend Article 50.  This has been met with fierce opposition, and the former supreme court justice, Lord Sumption, has stated the illegality of such an action. MPs, including former Tories expelled from the party, are preparing legal action in case the prime minister refuses to delay Brexit.

Yet, it has been reported, government lawyers could use the European Union’s own human rights charter to defeat the argument that is it unlawful to ignore the legislation that requires a request for a Brexit extension.

 

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The Junior Lawyers Division upcoming events

Whether you are a junior lawyer from an overseas jurisdiction looking to familiarise yourself with UK legal professionals or you are a young lawyer from the UK hoping to meet international lawyers, the Junior Lawyers Division is hosting ‘International Weekend’ which will take place between 26 September and 20 September in London. The event is not to be missed since it provides attendees with a mix of technical and legal presentations, skills-based seminars, an overview of the legal system in England and Wales, and an introduction to the City of London.

To add to this line-up, the Junior Lawyers Division has also organised two forums aimed at career development and securing a training contract. Make sure to register your interest on their website to secure a place at these insightful events.

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Are you just about to embark on your graduate law degree (GDL)? Are you worried about managing the workload and the mountain of deadlines? Fear not—visit our website for plenty of advice to help you excel during your GDL.

 

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Recommended reading

1. Why ‘upskilling’ should be the most important word in the legal lexicon.

2. The decline in transatlantic mergers is all the more obvious with the failed merger of Allen & Overy and O’Melveny & Myers.

3. A new law in India making it illegal for Muslim men to declare an ‘instant divorce’ has divided feminists.

4. A German tax case is putting the entire finance industry on trial with two former investment bankers facing allegations of orchestrating transactions that resulted in more than €400 million in tax losses.

5. The most recent postmasters' case helps to bring clarity over what constitutes a relational contract.

6. How a no-deal Brexit will affect dispute resolution in England and Wales, especially considering the UK courts’ status as a preferred forum for international disputes.

7. A recent Uber ruling is leaving taxi companies dry. Taxi companies are “running out of legal theories” to use against ride-hail companies.

8. The removal of a state law from 1872 last week allows California residents to turn down law enforcement officials who ask for help with an arrest.

9. The owner of a commercial boat that caught fire, killing 34 people, has sought to avoid liability by invoking 19th-century law used by Titanic’s legal defence.

10. Judges in a Paris court have ruled that a sex-induced death was a workplace accident, despite the sexual liaison not strictly being related to the employer’s mission. 

11. The European Court of Justice has confirmed jurisdiction for online infringements, making EU trademark owners more accountable.

12. The Law Commission has settled that electronic signatures are legally valid, despite the statutory requirement for a signature predating the digital age.

13. Ariana Grande is suing Forever 21 for copyright infringement after the company used a “look-a-like” model and referenced other intellectual property for an ad.

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