Goodbye job applications, hello dream career
Seize control of your career and design the future you deserve with LW career

Lawyers sport mullets for mental health

Lawyers are sporting mullets this September to raise awareness for mental health issues that are “prevalent throughout the legal industry”.

user iconJess Feyder 14 September 2022 Big Law
Lawyers sport mullets for mental health
expand image

Solicitor Nathan Phu and special counsel Sasha Ivantsoff work in litigation at Finn Roache Lawyers.

They are raising funds for Mullets for Mental Health, which will fund crucial research into the early detection, prevention, and treatment of common mental health disorders.

More than that, for Mr Phu and Mr Ivantsoff, it provides them with the opportunity to raise awareness throughout an industry where mental health issues are prevalent, yet often hidden.


They spoke to Lawyers Weekly about why they decided to get involved in the cause.

“It’s a cause that’s close to home, we’ve seen people go through it so much,” said Mr Phu.

“For both of us, there have been times we’ve not had the best mental health.

“It’s prevalent throughout the entire industry.” 

Mr Phu and Mr Ivantsoff delved into why the legal profession, in particular, leaves its workers vulnerable to mental health issues. 

“We spend so much of our day dealing with everyone else’s problems that sometimes, if you don’t disengage, there’s no time to deal with your own,” said Mr Phu.

“What we do is very mentally draining,” said Mr Ivantsoff.

“You can get anything from a three or four- or five-pronged attack in a piece of work you’re doing — your client can be demanding, your opponent can be demanding, your employer can be demanding or some other external entity — it’s a lot to take on. 

“You can get burnt out very quickly. There’s a lot of drinking for example, to sooth[e] that stress, and that’s not helpful,” he said.

“With litigation comes a mountain of stress, it’s a high pressure, high stress environment,” noted Mr Phu, “and there’s always court mandated timelines”.

They explained that attitudes and awareness of mental health within the industry often perpetuate the problem.

“In the legal industry, people pride themselves on their pride, not a lot of people want to talk about it,” said Mr Phu. 

“Not a lot of people even know how to deal with it. 

“Ironically for an industry where there’s an expectation for workers to always be available and contactable, it has one of the loneliest work forces,” Mr Phu added.

Mr Phu and Mr Ivantsoff explained that building awareness of mental health issues is essential in the legal industry — a key reason they decided to get involved in Mullets for Mental Health.  

“If I fell down the stairs and broke my leg, it would be obvious, visible, I would be treated. Mental health issues can be difficult to see and address,” said Mr Ivantsoff.

“Mental illness is an invisible ailment; you really don’t know if someone is suffering unless they tell you about it,” said Mr Phu.

“There are not enough people talking about it. We want to bring it to the forefront of everyone’s minds.

“There’s the opportunity to get support from people that are close to you — and people in the workplace are often close to you,” said Mr Ivantsoff.

“A substantial amount of us go through it,” said Mr Phu.

“By raising awareness, it’s really encouraging people to reach out to their colleagues, or anyone, when they’re feeling like they need help. 

“And making them know there’s no shame in doing it.” 

They discussed the workplace culture and procedures that can support positive mental health for lawyers. 

“I’ve been in the profession close to 25 years, and have seen a real variety, from workplaces which would be regarded as extremely toxic, and workplaces that are alive to these issues and supportive. Still — more needs to be done,” said Mr Ivantsoff.

“In smaller firms like ours, there’s a close and inclusive culture, a supportive culture where people look after each other and help — anything that can foster that sort of environment should be encouraged. 

“It can be more difficult in big firms when you have different personalities and agendas, but things can be put in place to promote inclusiveness and support.” 

“One of the things we do, procedurally, is have a meeting and talk about workload, so if you need help you have opportunities to stick your hand up and not be judged for it, and someone else will lend a hand,” said Mr Phu.

“That way you don’t feel like you’re drowning every day when you come in — and you can produce work of a higher quality.”

“Respecting down time is important,” said Mr Ivantsoff. “Emails are always there, text messages are always there, communication is always there — people shouldn’t be expected to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“There’s times when you need to work big hours, but when it’s over, there needs to be respect for recuperation time.

“It’s really important to be able to disengage and for an employer to respect that need.” 

And why should other lawyers get involved in Mullets for Mental Health?

“Mullets are dashing — there’s that,” said Mr Ivantsoff.

“They are coming back into fashion,” said Mr Phu.

“The barristers could do away with their wigs if they grew mullets,” he joked. 

“But really — to raise awareness, to get involved, get talking about it — because we aren’t talking about it,” said Mr Ivantsoff.

“I hope it encourages discussion on these topics,” said Mr Phu.

“That discussion could potentially stop something that could send you into a depressive or anxiety episode before it gets too serious.”

You need to be a member to post comments. Become a member for free today!