When these occur, it can happen suddenly and take everyone by surprise. Is there something about the legal profession that can bring this about?

By their early 50s, many lawyers realise that they are unlikely to progress any further and suffer a kind of ennui. It can help if they have assumed other duties on a part-time basis, such as deputy district judge or recorder. These offer a chance to get away from the stresses of the office to a more rarefied atmosphere, where they are free from incessant emails and phone calls.

Often, as senior partners, they can be faced with difficult political decisions, demanding clients expecting too much of them, and financial pressures with teenage children at university, or calls on the bank of ‘mum and dad’.

The build-up can be slow and inexorable, with no apparent means to stop it. When it happens, there may be no knowing when it will end. Such breakdowns seem to be notoriously slow to cure and sometimes things are never quite the same again.

None of the other partners with their own concerns may have realised the crisis that their colleague was facing. But the signs are there to see and it is up to all in daily practice to heed them.

John Greenwood, Chippenham