By: 8 March 2024
Vanessa Ford’s inquest sparks mental health conversation

The tragic passing of Vanessa Ford, a senior partner at Pinsent Masons, with offices in Leeds, has once again shone a spotlight on the issue of mental health within the legal profession.

 

Mental health concerns in the industry

Ford’s passing, underscored by a mental health crisis culminating in her death after being struck by a train, has prompted a renewed call for action to address the mental well-being of legal professionals.

Ford’s story underscores the intense pressures and challenges faced by lawyers, particularly those balancing demanding workloads with family responsibilities. Reports of her working 18-hour days leading up to her death highlight the impact of overwork and stress within the profession.

In response to Ford’s tragic passing, Pinsent Masons’ managing partner, Laura Cameron, has pledged to instigate “positive and enduring change” within the firm. She commented;

“Vanessa was a much-loved and respected member of our firm, and we remain deeply saddened by her death. The inquest proceedings and conclusions were distressing to hear for all that knew her, and of course especially for her family and friends still grieving her loss.

“We work in a profession where balancing work and family life can be difficult and presents challenges – particularly for working parents. We want this to be an ongoing conversation with colleagues to ensure we are doing everything we can to support our people.

“Across the legal industry – and more generally in society – a stigma around mental health persists and this is challenging to address. With vigilance, refreshed support measures and ongoing dialogue, both internally and externally, we will seek to make positive and lasting change.”

 

An ongoing conversation

The aftermath of Ford’s death has sparked widespread discussion on social media, with many advocating for systemic changes within the legal profession. Calls for a shift away from the ‘always-on’ culture that pervades the industry have grown louder, with a focus on promoting work-life balance and prioritising mental well-being.

Experts within the legal community have echoed these sentiments, emphasising the need for urgent action to address mental health issues among lawyers.

David Spencer, partner at Clyde and Co, wrote on LinkedIn; ‘I didn’t know Vanessa, but I recognise the soundbites. I have lost friends and former colleagues to suicide where “… nobody had any concerns around the pressure [they were] under … [they were] very positive … [they were] very proud of the work [they’d] done.” I suspect other lawyers will have similar friends, similar experiences. Some lawyers may see themselves.”

Alistair Maiden, global advisory lead for Consilio, stated; “Vanessa’s passing should serve to highlight the extent to which high-pressure careers affect individuals, their families and the people around them. Long hours, high stress and missing family time are common in our industry but it shouldn’t be the way.”

Wendy Merrill, co-founder of The Savvy Advocate, highlights that; “As long as lawyers continue to tolerate unhealthy environments (by first recognising that this lifestyle is indeed unhealthy) their employers will continue to expect the impossible and exact a terrible price from their professionals. May her memory spark real action to finally change the legal space for the better.”

 

The team at Yorkshire Legal News extends its heartfelt condolences to the friends and family of Vanessa Ford at this incredibly difficult time. 

 

Image: Canva.
Emma Cockings
Emma is the content editor for Yorkshire Legal News. Emma is an experienced writer with a background in client-centric personal injury law for a major firm. She has attended and reported on numerous high-profile legal events in Yorkshire.