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Don't be a statistic

Nov 11th, 2021

Des Mannion, Chief Executive Officer

According to research by the Samaritans and the Office for National Statistics, in 2019 there were, on average, 112 suicide related deaths a week in the UK. This is more than all deaths from road traffic accidents (32), epilepsy (23), cervical cancer (14), murder (14), flu (12), thyroid cancer (7), motor neurone disease (6) and testicular cancer (1) combined!

This means that nearly 5,000 people died from suicide in 2019. Men were three times more likely to die from suicide than women, with the highest number of deaths coming from men aged 40 – 45.

I had first-hand experience of this myself last year it happened to someone in our local community. He had two kids, was popular, and on the outside, there was no clear reason why he would have wanted to take his own life.

For all these reasons, I’m really pleased that everyone is more aware of mental wellbeing and as a society we are starting to take this more seriously, although there is still a long way to go.

Our Wellbeing and Values Group

Wellbeing is something that we are taking very seriously at Langleys. Our efforts are led by a Partner Wellbeing and Values Group, which is supported by Wellbeing Ambassadors drawn from across the firm. Following internal surveys and conversations, we have decided to focus our wellbeing efforts in three areas:

  1. Physical and musculoskeletal (MSK) health
  2. Lifestyle
  3. Mental health

The focus on physical and MSK health is important since we know that physical pain and discomfort has a direct impact on our mental health. It can be an effective entry point to encourage broader conversations about wider wellbeing. Also, an internal survey amongst our partners and staff revealed some concerning statistics – of the people who completed it:

  • 60% of people are experiencing some sort of pain
  • 50% of these are experiencing chronic pain
  • We are sitting 32% longer than the national average each day
  • 61% of people are reporting poor quality sleep

I would be surprised if this isn’t the same across all law firms throughout the country.

This month we are launching our Take a Break challenge across the firm, where we are challenging people to walk 20 miles during their lunch breaks in November – and to try to clock up five of those miles with a colleague.

We are giving people a sample plan to show how they can achieve it and are hoping that the challenge will have an impact on people’s physical and mental health. Lawyers tend to be competitive so it will be interesting to see who rises to the challenge!

Mindfulness and flexible working

I think it is important that wellbeing is led from the top, and Tim Cross and I are working hard to keep it front of mind as CEO and Senior Partner.  For example, I have now personally led three mindfulness sessions for our people, which have gone down well.  

I have been asked what we mean by mindfulness or mindful meditation. Well, it is like a gym session for our ‘brain muscle’. It helps us to fight the natural negativity of our brain, and the practice is as simple as taking 10 minutes for your own mental health by sitting down to still the mind.  This means we stay longer living our lives in the present moment, rather than focusing on things in the past that have happened and we cannot change, or catastrophising on a future that hasn’t happened yet and probably never will. As Mark Twain once said  “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, most of which never happened”.  

Some people think that mindfulness is ‘woo woo’ and wacky, with people sitting around cross legged, banging tambourines.  Well, it’s none of this (although each to their own) and really it’s straightforward, offering many benefits including reducing depression and anxiety, improving sleep, helping us break habits, giving us more energy… and overall being more present and so LIVING longer.

Our junior people in particular have really embraced the sessions and a number of new recruits have said that our approach to wellbeing has been a major factor in deciding to join us. One of our new trainees recently gave some feedback that said:

“I hope that as we keep drawing people’s attention to the importance of wellbeing that more people will be open to practicing mindfulness, because sessions like this are great and I’d love for more people to benefit from them too.”

As part of the focus on mindfulness and mental calmness, we took part in World Mental Health Day and gave everyone an hour to do something to support their own wellbeing – being based in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and with so much beautiful countryside around us, we had plenty of photos of people out walking and running, yoga, as well as meeting up with friends… and even some belly dancing! 

Another aspect of our wellbeing strategy is flexible working, which we hope gives people better balance in their lives and makes them feel happier at the same time as also being more productive. While people can save time and money on commuting, plenty of our people have told us that they enjoy coming into the office and being part of a community.

We are still relatively new to flexible working and, like many businesses, COVID was a catalyst for bringing forward plans we already had in the pipeline. But hopefully the approach we are adopting at Langleys is a ‘win-win’ for everyone and gives people the flexibility to find a mix that works for them. I would also hope that it changes the way we think about the workplace and, in particular, the role of the office and the impact on the environment of less travelling.


I recently attended a seminar run by our wellbeing partner, Champion Health.

A key theme was the importance of supporting each other and checking in from time to time to make sure that the positive impression people give on the outside is the same as what is going on inside.  A mnemonic they used that I thought was great and made sense is CLASS:

Connect, as people always remember how you made them feel

Listen to them and give them space to tell their story

Assess the situation and consider how you might guide next steps as we aren’t mental health professionals

Support them by making sure they know you are in their corner and reinforce this after the conversation

Signpost so they go in the right direction, be it their GP or their firm’s EAP (Employee Assistance Programme)

It may be that by being a CLASS friend to someone you can help them work through a difficult time - if you would like to know more, here is a helpful resource. As I found out with the guy in my community who thought he had no options, you never know and by just asking a simple ‘are you okay….’ might start to change some of the frightening statistics shared earlier…

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Des Mannion

Chief Executive Officer

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