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Vanessa Ford's tragic passing sparks urgent call for reform: the unseen struggles of mothers in the legal profession

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Vanessa Ford's tragic passing sparks urgent call for reform: the unseen struggles of mothers in the legal profession

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The heart-breaking loss of Vanessa Ford prompts a crucial conversation on the unique challenges faced by mothers in the legal profession, urging firms to prioritise mental health support

The recent news of Vanessa Ford's passing has sent shockwaves through the legal industry, shedding light on the often-overlooked struggles that mothers face within the demanding realm of law. This tragedy has sparked a critical conversation about the mental health toll on mothers in the legal profession, prompting calls for immediate action from industry leaders.

Sarah Lyons, Co-Founder of BlueSky, a platform dedicated to providing group workshops and coaching for women in law during maternity leave, offers poignant insights into the pressing issue. As former lawyers who founded BlueSky after their own challenging experiences with maternity leave, Sarah Lyons and her co-founder bring both emotional connection and expertise to the discussion.

Sarah Lyons emphasises the unique stresses placed on mothers within the legal profession, where the high-pressure environment and expectations disproportionately impact women. She underscores the emotional and professional hurdles that are distinct to the industry, citing the relentless "always on" expectation and the emphasis on billable hours as major contributors to the challenges faced by mothers with caring responsibilities.

One key issue highlighted by Sarah Lyons is the continuation of Professional Qualification Experience (PQE) during maternity leave, placing intense expectations on returning mothers. This, in conjunction with the lack of industry support, creates a precarious balancing act for mothers attempting to manage family and work responsibilities.

BlueSky's coaching experience reveals that guilt often becomes a pervasive factor in the daily mental health of women in law during maternity leave. The feeling of not spending enough time with their children due to work commitments or not being fully present when they are with them underscores the need for industry-wide support.

In response to these challenges, Sarah Lyons calls on law firms to take immediate action. She advocates for the establishment of mentorship programs, peer support groups, and dedicated resources to navigate maternity leave. Additionally, she stresses the importance of fostering open conversations about mental health, removing the stigma surrounding it, and encouraging sharing of personal stories. Sarah Lyons urges partners to lead by example, intervening when employees consistently work long hours, ensuring proper team resourcing, and prioritising work-life balance.

Vanessa Ford's tragic story serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need for systemic change within the legal profession. The call to action is clear: law firms must prioritise the mental health and well-being of mothers, fostering a supportive environment that acknowledges and addresses the unique challenges they face.

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