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Exclusive: Allen & Overy associate hospitalised with exhaustion
01 December 2017
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An Allen & Overy associate has been hospitalised with exhaustion due to overwork.

Sources told RollOnFriday that junior lawyers in the firm's Dubai office have regularly been working 18-20 hour days, seven days a week. One insider said a partner's "refusal to hire adequate resources" was responsible, and revealed that an associate had been taken to hospital suffering from exhaustion and stress.


"I came as soon as I heard. It's terrible. Wake her up, she hasn't answered my emails."
 

According to an insider, staff have no protection under the local labour laws so HR are unable to act. An Allen & Overy spokeswoman told RollOnFriday, "we have ensured that this individual has been looked after and is recovering. We take the wellbeing of our people very seriously, including monitoring the impact of workloads”. 

It is not the first time. Back in 2011, an associate at the London office was taken to hospital after collapsing during a deal. But A&O is surely not alone in pushing its lawyers to the max and then to A&E. If you've got an example, write in.

Hi. Please rate your firm's work/life balance, and six other factors, in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2018 Survey. Thank you. 

Comments

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Please keep it nice. Thanks.

anonymous user
01/12/2017 07:46
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"monitoring the impact of workloads"... so we're not going to do anything about the workloads or resourcing, just watch as they keel over.
anonymous user
01/12/2017 08:00
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"we have ensured that this individual has been looked after and is recovering. We take the wellbeing of our people very seriously, including monitoring the impact of workloads”.

Coming from the HR spokeswoman......
anonymous user
01/12/2017 08:37
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Warm wishes of support for the associate involved and hope that their privacy can be respected by the community. Definitely not the first (or second) time this has happened at A&O (and at other firms). Incidents are not generally made public as the lawyers involved are already feeling vulnerable as to their position and firms plainly wish it to be kept in-house. When the focus on profit per partner can be so intense there is little incentive for management to dilute that with additional resources. There is also, at times, a "bragging factor" and culture surrounding how long someone has been pushed in terms of hours working or awake. Many lawyers (and other staff) in the industry are often pushed to their physical and mental limits, operating in a ever present state of sleep deprivation. Those who raise issues often have a black mark against their name or are considered unable to hack the job. Sometimes a blame the victim approach can be adopted to keep it quiet and make those involved feel vulnerable (including asking to see medical records). Those who have learned to hide such "weaknesses" and press on quietly can end up with new health issues or eventually resign. Once people have burnt out or make the decision to move on (in any event) can be replaced with fresh blood. This is not cynical - this kind of turnover is factored in at most Magic Circle/Big Law firms. Why do you think many firms have introduced resilience training for their associate cohort? Some commenters may say "this is the deal you make when you go to these types of firms". But those kinds of sentiments legitimise these cultures and, in the long term, are not good for business. A healthy, happy, well rested and stable work force is more profitable long term than investments walking (which is the best outcome) out the door when they are pushed to these levels. Practices are evolving to allow more agile working which may help alleviate the toll on associates (and partners who also operate under similar circumstances) but more needs to be done.
anonymous user
01/12/2017 09:16
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"Hi, HR? Yeah, put her on the 'do not promote' list. Cheers."
anonymous user
01/12/2017 09:16
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Why anyone would want to work in firms like this is beyond me.
anonymous user
01/12/2017 10:33
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"According to an insider, staff have no protection under the local labour laws so HR are unable to act."

What? Why would a lack of local HR laws this stop A&O acting as a firm to protect A&O's employees from A&O's own callous partners who are working them into the ground?
anonymous user
01/12/2017 13:10
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Why was the associate not brave enough to take a day off or leave the office earlier? I don't buy that you'll be immediately fired, and or, suddenly become unemployable.

Anyhow, clearly, I hope the associate makes a full recovery.
anonymous user
01/12/2017 15:35
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anon 8:37 is right but misses the point. This is not an attitude of some partners, but a business model.
I'm not referring to A&O in particular, but to several law firms (and to many departments within them).
When a junior miner collapses you hire another one, and in the meantime the mine worked at 120% capacity. Does this work? Apparently so. Also ask IBDs for reference.
anonymous user
01/12/2017 20:03
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@anonymous 01/12/2017 08:37

each and any normal human being who works or has ever worked at an MC/Big Law firm applauds you

and if they don't, it's because they have no soul
anonymous user
01/12/2017 21:17
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what about antislavery policy?
anonymous user
01/12/2017 21:23
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This statement is made on behalf of Allen & Overy LLP, its wholly owned subsidiaries, Allen & Overy Service Company Ltd (together, the Firm) pursuant to section 54(1) of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (the Act) (the Statement).
The Statement was approved by the Board of Allen & Overy LLP on behalf of the Firm on 5 October 2017. It was reviewed and approved by each of the individual entities comprising the Firm which has
obligations under the Act.

The Firm takes its obligations in relation to the identi cation, reporting and prevention of slavery and human trafficking very seriously and has a zero tolerance approach to all abuses of human rights. As a responsible business, the Firm is committed to taking appropriate steps to ensure that slavery and human trafficking does not occur within and part of its own business or any of its supply chains. The Firm is committed to upholding and promoting human rights through the way the Firm conducts its business, including its programme of charitable and pro bono work that supports many human rights initiatives.
anonymous user
04/12/2017 05:58
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"staff have no protection under the local labour laws so HR are unable to act."

Um....A&Os HR needs to take a look at local law before making such blatantly untrue allegations. UAE Labour Law prescribes maximum working hours. In any event, A&O is not a regulator being asked to apply the law. This is a partner in its firm that they are being asked to reign in. They choose not to.
  

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