High-flying lawyer left ‘sobbing uncontrollably' at stressful job & ‘intolerable workload' could win MILLIONS

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High-flying lawyer left ‘sobbing uncontrollably’ at stressful job & ‘intolerable workload’ could win MILLIONS

A TOP lawyer who “sobbed uncontrollably” over work stress could win millions after launching a legal bid over her “intolerable workload”.

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Barrister Joanna Torode, 46, claims that working for international law firm Ropes and Gray were so “horrific” that she had a nervous breakdown and cried at work.

High-flying lawyer left ‘sobbing uncontrollably’ at stressful job & ‘intolerable workload’ could win MILLIONS

Global Tech News Daily

Joanna Torode cried after she was told that she would not be getting a promotion Credit: Champion News

High-flying lawyer left ‘sobbing uncontrollably’ at stressful job & ‘intolerable workload’ could win MILLIONS

Global Tech News Daily

She is accusing Ropes and Gray of causing the stress which ended her career Credit: Champion News

She believes that she was left with an “unrelenting” workload after an “exodus” of colleagues and was often the last one to leave at night.

A court heard that she had an emotional collapsed over Christmas 2017, and has been unable to work since being admitted to hospital in April 2018.

The former lawyer is now suing the company for damages over the premature end to her budding law career.

Ms Torode, from Whitechapel, East London, is claiming for at least £200k from the law firm, but could receive millions due to her claim for the loss of her “substantial” salary.

The US firm is fighting the damages bid, claiming that as a very high-earning City lawyer it was expected that Ms Torode would sometimes work long hours.

They also deny that her workload was ever excessive, and instead suggest that she was “over-focused on promotions”.

Ropes and Gray also claim that she cried at Christmas because she was passed over while other colleagues moved up the career ladder.

The High Court heard that Ms Torode started working at the company’s Ludgate Hill offices in June 2017 as a specialist in specialist in financial crime and money laundering regulation.

Her barrister Jeremy Hyam QC told the court that she joined the firm's “government enforcement” team as an “employed barrister”.

However, only two-and-a-half months later, there was an “exodus” from her team, as several colleagues left to join another firm.

Mr Hyam claims that this left her as the only English-qualified lawyer in the team, so that overnight she was faced with a “substantially increased workload and responsibility.”

Her working conditions became “chaotic, stressful and pressurised” and she told her employer that she needed support.

He told the court: “Not only would she frequently be the last lawyer on her floor to leave in the evening as well as frequently working over weekends.

“But the intensity and pressure of her work was significantly intensified given the absence of any effective support at junior and senior level, and the absence of any effective team working.

“By late November and into early December 2017 the claimant was feeling exhausted and she was showing the incipient signs of major depression with her mood worsening.”

'MAJOR DEPRESSION'

Mr Hyam said that she was “visibly upset” after being told that she would not be promoted while two other colleagues would.

He added: “Her obvious upset and sobbing was a significant event that went beyond a brief loss of composure.

“It was witnessed by others and was a clear indication of the fragile emotional state she was in as a result of the unrelenting and overwhelming pressure of work she had been under.”

He claims that the company should have been more supportive of her obvious emotional issues, but instead told her that getting upset in the office was “not appropriate conduct” and could harm her chances of future promotion.

Ms Torode went off sick in April 2018 after being informed that she would face a disciplinary hearing after speaking to a journalist regarding a client.

She had not realised that her comments could be taken as “criticism” of their client and gave the interview at a time she was terrified of “dropping the ball£.

The “heavy-handed and disproportionate” conduct of the disciplinary investigation, including her being suspended and told she could be sacked, had triggered a “sudden deterioration” in her mental health, leading to her being hospitalised.

Accusing Ropes and Gray of causing Ms Torode's illness, he said: “The claimant's mental illness was caused or materially contributed to by the negligence, breach of contract and/or breach of statutory duties of the defendant.

“The claimant…now suffers from a major depressive disorder, recurrent, treatment resistant, and moderately severe without psychotic features with moderate to severe anxious distress.

“She is unlikely to be able to return to work as a lawyer…The claimant has lost the ability to practice her chosen profession in which she was a specialist.”

'SIGNIFICANTLY EXAGGERATED'

Ropes and Gray deny that Ms Torode’s workload was excessive, as she was a well-qualified and experienced lawyer on a “substantial” salary and bonuses.

Robert Glancy QC, defending the company, said: “The work that she did in the evenings and to some extent at the weekends was normal for senior City lawyers who were substantially remunerated and was neither out of the norm, nor excessive.

“The claimant either knew or ought to have known, when she accepted the employment as a well-remunerated City lawyer that she would on occasions have to work in the evenings and at weekends.

“It is specifically denied that the claimant’s workload, either in relation to the amount of work or the complexity of the work, was in any way excessive or unreasonable for a senior lawyer who was being paid a substantial salary and bonuses in a City firm.

“In particular, it is denied that the situation in which the claimant was working was either chaotic, unduly stressful or excessively pressurised.”

The company also claim that she “excessively and unrealistically” focused on promotion, and had been informed that she would not take a step up privately before the public announcement in 2017.

Mr Glancy claims that she would “typically” become upset when she did not get what she wanted, and was “angry and upset” when she found out two colleagues would be promoted.

They deny the claims that she had a “meltdown” and told the court that she has “significantly exaggerated” the events.

He says the disciplinary procedure that was put in place after she gave the interview was a “reasonable and appropriate” reaction to a “gross error of judgment” on her part.

She knew she should only give an interview after informing the firm's PR department, but had done so anyway, he says.

“In the circumstances, suspension of the claimant was justified and appropriate and the defendant had no knowledge, actual or constructive, of the claimant’s alleged precarious mental state at this time.”

The claim and defence documents have been filed at the High Court in London, but the case has not yet been heard by a judge.

High-flying lawyer left ‘sobbing uncontrollably’ at stressful job & ‘intolerable workload’ could win MILLIONS

She is suing them for £200,000 but it could run into millions Credit: Champion News

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