Lawyer Wellness

General counsel respond to BigLaw attorneys' concern over extreme client demands

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The American Lawyer reported last week that about 50% of nearly 3,000 attorneys who responded to a survey said client demands negatively impact their well-being. Image from Shutterstock.

BigLaw attorneys cite unreasonable or excessive demands from clients as a primary reason for their stress and anxiety, according to a survey by the American Lawyer on mental health in the legal profession.

The American Lawyer, which published results of its annual Mental Health Survey in May, reported last week that about 50% of the nearly 3,000 attorneys who responded to the survey said client demands negatively impact their well-being.

The publication also reported that more than half said they didn’t think that their clients cared about their mental health, while around half said they were the reason they rarely or never went on vacation.

In talking with general counsel about these statistics, the American Lawyer found that many think that law firms that charge exorbitant rates should meet their clients’ expectations. They also said equity partners at firms—and not their clients—aren’t enforcing boundaries.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s more so the expectations of the law firm partners as to how they think the client has to be serviced rather than what the client demands,” Timothy Brown, the chief legal officer at Venerable, told the American Lawyer. “But for law firm partners, that’s how they came up. That’s what they did and it worked for them.”

Others, including Tim Parilla, the chief legal officer at LinkSquares, agreed that working in a firm includes adhering to a level of responsiveness that could sometimes affect the personal lives of lawyers.

Parilla told the American Lawyer: “I think about it the same way I think about responsiveness from my own internal staff. Yes, sometimes on the evenings and weekends, I do expect them to be immediately available.”

“For example, leading up to the close of a financing or a major transaction,” he added. “That’s a big deal, so they should be there and available the same way that I would expect anybody else who’s working the deals.”

However, Jerry Levine, the chief evangelist and general counsel at ContractPodAi, also told the American Lawyer that in-house lawyers should try to plan ahead and prioritize the mental health of their team members.

“I think it’s incumbent on in-house counsel—as clients—to use their judgment to make decisions as to when to be frantic and when to recognize that outside counsel are humans too,” Levine said.

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