Hogan Lovells has bolstered its policies and procedures around workplace stress and mental health in the wake of the tragic suicide of respected IP partner David Latham earlier this year.
The inquest into Latham’s death, who jumped in front of a tube on 15 February, opened yesterday (12 September) at Westminster Coroner’s Court, when coroner Jean Harkin heard the 58-year-old lawyer was worried about a relatively minor evidence point on a particularly complex case he was working on. Despite constant reassurance from fellow partners and external counsel that his concerns were unjustified, he became ‘inconsolable.’
Latham’s wife Gillian Webb reportedly told the inquest that he had felt ‘unsupported’ at work but after hearing evidence from witnesses, including fellow trademark consultant Nicholas Macfarlane, Harkin concluded: ‘It is clear that he was involved in a matter of work where he felt that he would be criticised and despite reassurances from partners and colleagues at work, he retained those thoughts.’
Since then, the firm, which described Latham after the event as an ‘utterly charming man’ and ‘one of life’s true gentlemen’, has provided onsite support for those in Latham’s practice area and Hogan Lovells chair Nicholas Cheffings told Legal Business: ‘We have regular interactive talks on health related topic, recent examples include managing your mental health, dealing with stress and developing resilience, sleep, diet and exercise. These events are well attended and appear to be valued by staff and partners alike.’
The firm currently has a dedicated, full-time occupational health adviser who is based on-site and supported by a senior offsite occupational health physician who is available to provide advice and guidance to individuals or line managers who may have concerns. It also has a private GP service and a confidential 24 hour help and advice line staffed by trained counsellors.
Cheffings added: ‘David was a great colleague, highly regarded professional and friend, with whom we all enjoyed working. We were deeply shocked by his death.
‘His death came as a surprise to all of us and even now it feels unimaginable that he is gone. He and his family were good friends of the firm. This was something that we would never have expected of someone who seemed to enjoy life and his work as much as him.’
Cambridge-educated Latham was acknowledged in the Legal 500 for successfully representing Mattel in a cross-border trade mark dispute regarding its Scrabble game brand and recently for his role in co-authoring a European Union (EU) wide study on parasitic copying on behalf of the European Commission.
With a focus on international trade mark and copyright protection, he was also a long-standing legal adviser to Mars and worked for Kraft, British American Tobacco and SABMiller.
He is survived by his wife and three adult children Rebecca, Mark and Liana.