The managing partners from Australia's largest law firms have unveiled a collaborative strategy to tackle depression in the legal profession.
Presenting their initiative at the Tristan Jepson Memorial Lecture at Freehills on 24 September, representatives from Clayton Utz, Allens, Mallesons, Blake Dawson and Freehills revealed they have been in "frank" and "honest" collaborative discussions on the issue of depression in law, and have openly shared their own firm strategies for managing stress, anxiety and depression.
Freehills managing partner Peter Butler announced the collaboration, and admitted that the initiative was long overdue. "Is it just the case that it's an idea whose time has come? It deserves to be," he said.
Butler said the collaboration involved three central themes: The first was to share the programs that each believe are already working in their individual firms. The second involved an agreement to conduct a survey of young lawyers on what they believe their employers can do to help - and sharing that information, while the third theme involved developing initiatives for early intervention of mental illness, as well as the dissemination of information and ideas for programs on stress, anxiety and depression.
He said there were no secrets in sharing this information, and that the fierce competition that is usually shared between these firms was forgotten in a bid to offer real solutions to the issue of depression in the law. "We didn't care. We were going to openly share what we were doing in this space to make it better," he said.
Butler also stated that the collaboration would be an industry wide initiative and that all firms and all facets of the legal profession are invited to participate.
The initiative received a warm reception from the 200-strong crowd gathered as part of the annual Tristan Jepson Memorial lecture, as well as from the parents of Tristan Jepson - a law student who took his own life five years ago.
Organisers of the lecture plan to extend the range of participants next year to tackle the issue from various academic, student and industry perspectives.