Today, Baker McKenzie confirmed the death of their Global Chair, Paul Rawlinson. In October of last year, Rawlinson took a leave of absence to focus on his personal health. Today’s announcement of his untimely passing included word that his health issues were “caused by exhaustion.” The lives of the Rawlinson family is forever changed: children suddenly without a father, a spouse now widowed. One heartbreaking loss impacting countless lives, familial, personal, and professional. The scope is greater still: for every global chair or managing partner whose loss is headline news, how many partners, associates, and business professionals within the legal industry are suffering and losing their battles against a toxic environment, without notice?
Bloomberg’s Big Law Business headline read “Wake Up Call,” and it is hard not to reflect on how many “wake up calls” about mental health and virulent work cultures have sounded in the legal industry. The shock waves will jolt the profession in the days and weeks to come, yet the ingrained, maddening pace of BigLaw will not miss a beat. Today’s headline will be yesterday’s headline.
The culture of BigLaw is like an undammed river and people are drowning. If they are fortunate, they get pulled out when they are seen struggling against the current. But like Desmond Tutu said, “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”
It’s time to go upstream.