When I launched Thrive Law in 2018, I wanted to set up a law firm with a unique brand and identity that best reflected the change I wanted effect: a bigger and better focus on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. I wanted mental health to have parity with physical health and to have a place much higher in business agendas.
This was because in January 2017, I suffered a mental breakdown. For most of my life, I have experienced anxiety, panic attacks and PTSD. I have managed to cope through a combination of therapies and medication.
But in 2017, while working full-time as a solicitor, I started to experience a serious decline in my mental health. This decline was the result of a build-up and combination of life events, work issues and a feeling of being completely overwhelmed, unworthy and unable to cope.
As a result, I had to take a significant amount off work on sick leave. I needed to be off work to recover but, conversely, it made me feel awful; I was filled with guilt and shame—it was the first time I had been ‘off sick’ long-term.
Worse still, all I could think about was getting back to work. I was deeply unwell, so much so I could not leave the house at times; I was incredibly emotional, breaking into tears at the smallest thing; I experienced panic attacks daily; I couldn’t sleep; and I even lost my motivation to exercise and socialise. The hardest part was I felt like I couldn’t be a lawyer anymore and that I wasn’t worthy of being in the legal profession. My brain had fully taken over and thoughts of hopelessness and despair were common.
So, this is why I set up Thrive and I am so passionate about mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. I wanted to create a place where I could be psychologically safe and where I could thrive in the hope that other lawyers would share the same values and I could grow my team.
While January 2017 was the time of my mental breakdown, it also the beginning of what I now call my mental ‘breakthrough’.
After a long period off work, I decided to leave my job. This was a scary decision to make because of my financial responsibilities (having self-funded through university and Bar School with a significant debt and a new house!), but I was unable to cope with basic tasks and the guilt I felt over not going to work was overwhelming. I chose to leave so that I could focus on getting better.
Following a few months of therapy and more medication, I realised that my career as a solicitor could in fact assist my recovery.
This realisation is a crucial point in my story: my work ceased becoming part of the problem and instead became part of the solution.
I went on to become a consultant solicitor. I was essentially self-employed so I could pick and choose my clients, work from home, and enjoy full control and autonomy over my life, personal and professional.
The flexibility and ownership this ‘role’ brought made me fall in love with being a solicitor all over again. And my recovery sped up. I still had bad days, but I could manage these much more easily—without that feeling of guilt or being judged.
It was not long before the old fire in my belly returned, the one I had when I started out and what originally convinced me to move into the law in the first place: that burning desire to help people. I had a sense of purpose again.
My mental breakthrough focused this fire on supporting people like myself. I thought that there would be many others going through what I did and that if I could improve education around mental health and wellbeing, while helping employers to manage both in the workplace, then I could help to minimise the associated guilt and shame, and challenge the glamourisation of over-working. Indeed, law firms have much to learn as employers. Many have a focus on long hours (consecutive 15-hour+ days are not unheard of) and unforgiving billable hours targets.
The combination of my lived experience and perspective with my expertise as an employment solicitor, along with my close pro bono work with mental health charities, uniquely positioned me to practice law differently.
What I soon realised, however, was that I had to create my own brand and identity. Working as a consultant solicitor is fine but it’s a behind-the-scenes position, trading on the strength of another firm. It worked for me during my recovery, but to enact real change and take my breakthrough to the next level, I had to launch my own firm, one where mental health and wellbeing were the reasons for its existence, where everyone could thrive.
In 2018, after successfully navigating what is a challenging but rewarding regulatory process, Thrive Law was born.
Today, Thrive, headquartered in Leeds with teams in London and the Southwest, delivers HR and employment law support to employers and employees. Our focus on ED&I, mental health, wellbeing and neurodiversity underpins our mission to ensure everyone can thrive in the workplace.
Above all, we practice what we preach. At Thrive, I enable and encourage my employees to take paid time off as ‘wellbeing days’, to promote selfcare. They also receive a wellbeing budget and coaching, are set no ‘targets’ for billable hours and benefit from fully flexible ‘smart working’. They can even work remotely from another country for up to a month every year.
I also lead by example through an open and honest discussion about mental health, including my own. I willingly share this to normalise the conversation and create a safe environment where colleague wellbeing is not just a tick-box exercise.
As a firm, we are reaping the benefits of this approach, which also includes giving our employees access to the latest products and services to improve their wellbeing, one-to-one and 360 feedback, and much more. We are growing at a sustainable rate of around 50% annually, with employees staying for years, many since Thrive’s inception.
Our unique brand and identity make Thrive stand out wherever the law firm goes. We have just won an award for our employment law services in Yorkshire, for the third consecutive year. It’s a testament to what is now our story. It is one I share with the Thrive Tribe and I intend to share it with many more people to come.
And of course, this story is continuing. I have campaigned since 2019 to change the law around mental health in the workplace. As part of this campaign, I am currently helping to draft proposed new legislation as part of a Parliamentary committee that aims to gain parity between mental and physical health in the workplace.
I also launched and am chair of This Is Me Yorkshire, which aims to destigmatise mental health, neurodiversity, and disability in business by encouraging people to share their personal stories.
The neurodiversity aspect is one I am passionate about, because I have been diagnosed with ADHD. As a neurodivergent solicitor, I want to help improve neuroinclusion in the workplace and help spread awareness and understanding.
These are key parts of a wider mission to make workplaces psychologically safe, alongside my work to develop progressive leaders who will serve as catalysts for lasting change and impact and empower people to become their best and truest selves.
Each fresh chapter of my story contains a few pages dedicated to bad days; those have not gone away. I am still in therapy and experiencing panic attacks, but I feel safe with my Thrive Tribe and know I can rely on them for support. The right support network is crucial, it helps me to manage so much better.