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Law Firms: Is the Pressure Worth it?

Law Firms: Is the Pressure Worth it?

For many law students, the thought of working in a big city for a big firm is one that is very appealing. The promise of challenging work, an excellent salary and the status that comes with the job is exciting. However, is working for such a large firm such as those in the ‘Magic Circle’ really worth it?

However, is working for such a large firm such as those in the ‘Magic Circle’ really worth it?

There is no denying the obvious perks to working for a large firm. For a law student, securing a training contract within the ‘Magic Circle’ is like gold dust. The fact that these firms are so well known and renowned means that career progression is no doubt made a lot easier for those looking to establish themselves in the legal profession. Not to mention the obvious financial benefits. Big firms mean a big clientele, which means as a lawyer, your work is likely to be thrust more into the public eye. This could be seen as a way to motivate employees to work harder and strive to perform better.

However, there is a downside to being a lawyer always in the public eye. The recent news story involving a trainee at Magic Circle firm Clifford Chance provides a perfect example. The trainee in question was caught on video describing the work his firm does as ‘f***ing people over for money’. His behavior in the eyes of any employer would be seen as unacceptable. The issue here is the additional effects that may be felt due to the presence of Clifford Chance as a large international firm. This employee has seen his comments, which may have just been a drunken lapse of judgment, appear in the news and become potentially damaging to his future career. It must be considered that such firms have a reputation to uphold, with high profile clients hanging in the balance. An employee’s attitude toward their work is therefore important, especially that of those just starting out.

My main focus here however, when looking at these types of firms, is the inevitable pressure that comes with the job. Hogan Lovells, another top law firm was recently in the public eye reviewing their stress management policies in the light of the suicide of one of their partners, David Latham, who died earlier this year. This leads to a debate as to whether firms such as these have sufficient mechanisms in place to help employees, especially those higher up in the firm, to deal with the stress and everyday pressures of the work they face.

Big firms mean a big clientele, which means as a lawyer, your work is likely to be thrust more into the public eye.

Working for any law firm is stressful; yet, working for one with such high profile clients can mean double the amount of stress. The client is everything to a firm; therefore the pressure to complete an important deal on time is crucial to any lawyer. David Latham was said to have been anxious for weeks as a result of a case he was handling, which was exacerbated by the fact he had felt ‘unsupported’ at work. It must be considered that offering stress management in an efficient way to every employee must be difficult, especially here, where employees may not be as personally identifiable to their managers then those working within smaller firms.

David Latham’s story brings to light these issues that need to be addressed within the legal world.

This draws upon another negative aspect that may arise from working within this prestigious group. Your needs are one of many to be considered and therefore, it is not surprising that these firms have struggled to recognise an employee’s personal struggle. David Latham’s story brings to light these issues that need to be addressed within the legal world. As a law student, I am already aware of characteristics I am developing, such as the need to perfect a piece of work. It is clear that, if taken too far, this characteristic could become problematic for a person’s mental well being.

Among all of these negative comments however, comes progress. Hogan Lovells, upon the inquest into the death of Latham, have taken serious steps to embark on a quest to offer full support to their employees in the future who may be suffering from the same problems. This offers an example of how a firm’s reputation in the public eye can be used to promote good working practice and encourage other, similar firms to take the same approach.

The influence of working within the public eye and the media’s scrutiny is undeniable. The connection this has to increased pressure on a person to perform is something to be considered. David Latham was renowned for his expertise in trademark and copyright law and was a very well-known figure in the legal industry. His psychiatric issues were undiagnosed and unnoticed. Latham’s case demonstrates how the fear of making a mistake and damaging not only your firms, but your personal reputation can have devastating consequences.

The pressure of working for a big city firm can most definitely be worth it. There are positives and negatives and the job is not for everyone, but it is impossible to argue against the benefits of having a ‘magic circle’ training contract under your belt. Cases such as the ones I have discussed can only be used as a way for firms to make progress. The awareness David Latham’s case has risen in regards to safeguarding employees is evident and will hopefully lead to the growth of sound stress management policies within more and more firms.

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