An organisation which focuses on creating a mentally healthier workplace has written an open letter to the legal profession following the death of a solicitor.

Mindful Business Charter said the ‘tsunami of change hitting the legal profession, not least through the impact of AI, runs the very real risk of making the situation worse’ adding that ‘change is likely to mean more pressure and demands on individuals’.

It follows the death of solicitor Vanessa Ford who was struck by a train last year. A prevention of future deaths report, written by coroner Ian Potter, said Ford had ‘consumed a significant amount of alcohol while undergoing an acute mental health crisis'. It added: ‘There is insufficient evidence to suggest that she intended to take her own life.’

Mindful Business Charter’s open letter said ‘the legal profession suffers some of the highest levels of mental distress in society'. It added many have personality traits, such as predispostion to overworking and subjugating their own needs in favour of those of others, which are 'risk factors' in an industry ‘which play to those very personality characteristics, and we have ended up, by default rather than design, with reward structures which incentivise and champion them'.

In a call to action, the letter said organisations and leaders need to ‘actively monitor the risk’ and when identified, ‘actively step in’ to manage the risk and reduce stress.

It added that partners ‘need to have an honest discussion with each other as to their values and shared purpose and to the balance they are prepared to make between the profitability of the firm and the lives of the people who work in it, including their own’.

Addressing individuals, the letter states: ‘Be prepared to speak up and ask for what you need. Practice speaking up on the small things so that it is easier when the big things come along. Do so kindly and respectfully to others, but most of all to yourself.’

It continues: ‘Managing the risk might mean taking people off a project for a period, or adding additional resource to staff the project or slowing it down because the project is never going to be more important than the lives of the people involved. At a lower level it might mean checking in more regularly with people and/or requiring them to access professional support to help them manage the situation and also to help monitor the risk.’

Richard Martin, of Mindful Business Charter said: 'We wanted to say something but wanted to say something that was as a result of taking time to reflect and respectful to everyone involved.'

He told the Gazette the organisation was working toward 'trying to push' for regulations under the Health and Safety at Work Act for psychological risks and mental health provisions as though 'there are regulations on how to lift heavy things and safely use toxic chemicals, there is nothing on psychological risk and there should be'.