Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

'Big Law Killed My Husband': An Open Letter From a Sidley Partner's Widow

You can read here (https://www.law.com/americanlawyer /2018/1 beat12311/12/18
Paywall. passportfan311/12/18
https://abovethelaw.com/2018/11/big law-widow-blames-firm-for somefed11/12/18
I know of many very depressed professionals. Stories like t patenttrollnj11/13/18
He signed up for it though knowing the stress going in. It esquirewalletsmatter11/13/18
Buddy, have a heart. Sometimes people don't realize wha patenttrollnj11/16/18
I am sympathetic but suicide is an incredibly selfish act. O esquirewalletsmatter11/19/18
I'm sorry about your friend. One of my high school classm patenttrollnj11/21/18
Good job working in blame for stupid liburals into your poas triplesix11/21/18
One of my friends ended up in mental hospital after 4 years limeysolicitor11/13/18
Last year a Fergus Falls MN man who was a rural county’s c billcarson11/13/18
This guy beat the odds. 2002: UNC-Charlotte grad. 2005: snot311/13/18
Pre-2007 I think you could get BIGLAW from most T1s with jus superttthero11/13/18
Sidley is #13 on Vault. Making Partner for a Vault #15 law f snot311/13/18
PPP are an average. The chairman, management committee, superttthero11/13/18
This specific trajectory is a bit rare. However, pre-20 patenttrollnj11/14/18
What annoys me about these kinds of stories is the constant therewillbeblood11/13/18
They were probably under similar pressures, if not from the superttthero11/13/18
Or you could lower expenses, including partner profits. Insi therewillbeblood11/13/18
Doesn’t really matter to them. The guy was nonequity. They billcarson11/13/18
Exactly my point. therewillbeblood11/13/18
It's a collective action problem. Large firms are run by a m superttthero11/13/18
Bingo. Now that we have reached what I suspect is the maxim quillan11/13/18
This is my firm. And our model is not unique. midlaw11/19/18
He graduated summa cum laude in undergrad and law school. I ibrslave11/13/18
In situations like these I have to ask...why not just quit o irishlaw11/13/18
Because it really wasn't about the biglaw job. The stress an thirdtierlaw11/13/18
How can anyone else be blamed? My guess is the story is typ jeffm11/13/18
I wish biglawl would eat them all triplesix11/13/18
Yes, this is very tragic but also not unexpected under the c ibrslave11/13/18
is there any statistical evidence that biglaw partners commi themapmaster11/13/18
It's just because of ATL's roots as a legal trash tabloid. wutwutwut11/14/18
That is very true. In the past few years, 2 attorneys I sort cranky11/14/18
Lol, working 80 hour weeks while watching your health and fa mtbislife11/14/18
Get rich or die trying jdslug11/13/18
How compelled did this guy feel to stay with Sidley? He coul wallypancake11/15/18
I don't think you can blame her. She said in the article th somefed11/15/18
So a man had to die because a company that makes freaking ma onehell11/15/18
my friend's dad worked at a gas station and killed himself. whiteguyinchina11/16/18

beat123 (Nov 12, 2018 - 7:29 pm)

You can read here (https://www.law.com/americanlawyer/2018/11/12/big-law-killed-my-husband-an-open-letter-from-a-sidley-partners-widow/?fbclid=IwAR1s-OjSRELlOrODuLhlCtavWLxPhqUwjRjIFZdetAx3f4E9SmUUMOOwukg&slreturn=20181012192616).

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passportfan3 (Nov 12, 2018 - 7:49 pm)

Paywall.

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somefed (Nov 12, 2018 - 8:23 pm)

https://abovethelaw.com/2018/11/biglaw-widow-blames-firm-for-husbands-suicide/

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patenttrollnj (Nov 13, 2018 - 12:12 am)

I know of many very depressed professionals. Stories like this are all too real.

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esquirewalletsmatter (Nov 13, 2018 - 7:35 am)

He signed up for it though knowing the stress going in. It certainly exacerbated his mental health issues, but it is not big law alone. He killed himself, the law did not kill him. They also mentioned the dog Ivy more than four times. Perhaps, it was unobtainable expectation coupled with worldview. Either way, it's no excuse. He let down his family. It's on him and him alone.

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patenttrollnj (Nov 16, 2018 - 8:44 pm)

Buddy, have a heart.

Sometimes people don't realize what they're getting themselves into, plus with mental illness you don't think rationally.

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esquirewalletsmatter (Nov 19, 2018 - 8:18 am)

I am sympathetic but suicide is an incredibly selfish act. One of my best friends killed himself fifteen years ago 10 days from today. He’s been dead almost as long as he lived. It’s tortured me for years. I didn’t get closure until last year tbh. It’s an inexcusable act in my opinion. Don’t blame Big law, don’t blame others. It’s the nature of the beast one signed up for. There were other options but his own mental illness precluded those options. The blame game lasts a very long time for some people even if they know it wasn’t their fault. That’s all I’m trying to say here

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patenttrollnj (Nov 21, 2018 - 1:18 pm)

I'm sorry about your friend.

One of my high school classmates killed himself shortly after graduating. He was more a friend of a friend, but I was quite shocked by the whole event. He seemed very well-adjusted.

Looking back now as someone in middle-age, suicide at that young age seems so ridiculous. Life has so many twists and turns, it seems ridiculous to call it quits so early.

Regardless, whether it's selfish or not, we can expect an epidemic of suicides in the near future, especially with automation and outsourcing setting-in. Once AI takes over (if it takes over), I worry it will really get bad.

What really worries me is the advent of the self-driving car. Considering how many people make a living operating vehicles, that will be a real disaster when it happens (if it happens). As it is, we already have a suicide epidemic in NYC with cab drivers who are losing their jobs to UBER, thus causing them to go into massive debt since they cannot pay-off the medallion (aka. a type of license for cabbies).

And unfortunately, there is no real support anywhere. Families are breaking-down. Disgusting leftists shame people about having any spiritual beliefs, thus taking away that comfort. Any type of discussion about limiting immigration so as to protect the American worker is branded as racist and xenophobic.

Yet, somehow, people scratch their heads wondering why depression is on the rise. Sad!

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triplesix (Nov 21, 2018 - 3:10 pm)

Good job working in blame for stupid liburals into your poast dear. Please proceed to /pol

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limeysolicitor (Nov 13, 2018 - 6:26 am)

One of my friends ended up in mental hospital after 4 years at a magic circle firm.

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billcarson (Nov 13, 2018 - 8:00 am)

Last year a Fergus Falls MN man who was a rural county’s chief unelected prosecutor killed his wife (who was one of two dedicated public defenders and only attorney hired by the county at that time to represent at risk juveniles) before killing himself.

Not only did he ruin her life, he pretty much grinded the judicial system in that area to a crawl for over a year now.

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snot3 (Nov 13, 2018 - 9:07 am)

This guy beat the odds.

2002: UNC-Charlotte grad.
2005: Penn State JD

Worked at a midsize firm for 4 years than Sidley. Put in five years and made partner. An amazing trajectory with those academic credentials.


RIP.

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superttthero (Nov 13, 2018 - 10:01 am)

Pre-2007 I think you could get BIGLAW from most T1s with just top 10-20% (note that bad then T1 was just the top 50). The classes were smaller, and the pay was just reaching its ridiculous peak. A good reputation (the type that can lateral to BIGLAW) mid-size seems entirely plausible.

He beat the odds by surviving as a young associate during ITE, but since it seems he was in bankruptcy, so he was in a good area for the time.

If he was cum laude and LR, in 2005 out of Penn State that doesn't seem crazy.

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snot3 (Nov 13, 2018 - 6:59 pm)

Sidley is #13 on Vault. Making Partner for a Vault #15 law firm (in 2014 no less) after only five years as an associate out of anything other than a T14 is not defying the odds, it's destroying them. Profits per partner was 2.3 million in 2018. This guy was making pro sports money. Doing this out of Harvard ain't easy. Doing this out of Penn State is nearly impossible.

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superttthero (Nov 13, 2018 - 8:16 pm)

PPP are an average.

The chairman, management committee, long term partners, rainmakers, national practice heads (often), office heads are making pro-sport money. Non-equity young guys are often just a step above the oldest associates.

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patenttrollnj (Nov 14, 2018 - 6:02 pm)

This specific trajectory is a bit rare.

However, pre-2000, it wasn't all that unusual for attorneys to maneuver their way up the ladder into "good" positions. Even without biglaw or an elite law school, there was always the potential of upward mobility.

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therewillbeblood (Nov 13, 2018 - 9:57 am)

What annoys me about these kinds of stories is the constant focus on the “culture.” The managing and senior partners never seem to get individual blame, though it was probably their fault.

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superttthero (Nov 13, 2018 - 11:17 am)

They were probably under similar pressures, if not from the firm, from clients.

There is nothing you can do to change BIGLAW culture unless clients are willing to pay more for less. That's not going to happen.

Stress management and dealing with the pressure are necessary skills in this line of work, or enough sense to live below your means and leave for something else after you've built a foundation for a life you can be happy with.

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therewillbeblood (Nov 13, 2018 - 12:06 pm)

Or you could lower expenses, including partner profits. Insisting that you make $4,000,000 in a year instead of say, $3,500,000, is a moral decision.

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billcarson (Nov 13, 2018 - 12:08 pm)

Doesn’t really matter to them. The guy was nonequity. They replaced him with one out of a teeming room of eager associates by end of business. Death of a salesman.

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therewillbeblood (Nov 13, 2018 - 1:04 pm)

Exactly my point.

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superttthero (Nov 13, 2018 - 2:51 pm)

It's a collective action problem. Large firms are run by a management committee who partners elect to increase profits per partner.

If the committee chooses people over profits, they won't be re-elected. If the firm culture is sufficiently in favor of lowering profits per partner, they'll start to bleed their most sociopathic, well connected, income-driven partners who'll take their book of business to a firm that'll promise and deliver more profits per partner.

It's easy to say that they could have just lowered expenses and paid less, but in a 750 - 2000 attorney firm, that's now how it works. You would basically need the majority (maybe hundreds of people) of equity partners, including the big rain-makers, to agree to this.

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quillan (Nov 13, 2018 - 3:32 pm)

Bingo. Now that we have reached what I suspect is the maximum in terms of productivity (i.e., squeezing billable hours out of every timekeeper) I wonder whether some enterprising millennials might not start a "lifestyle" firm with civilized hours. Most people I know in biglaw would happily give up 20 percent of their income for 20 percent more free time, so I don't think they'd have a tough time finding attorneys. The question is whether clients would send work to such a firm. Of course, arguably some of the regional firms fit this description, but they don't brand themselves as such. Perhaps there is an opportunity there.

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midlaw (Nov 19, 2018 - 6:31 pm)

This is my firm. And our model is not unique.

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ibrslave (Nov 13, 2018 - 11:15 am)

He graduated summa cum laude in undergrad and law school. I think his career trajectory was in line with those credentials. I’ve seen many people at the very top of their respective diploma mill go on to whatever gig they want.

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irishlaw (Nov 13, 2018 - 11:21 am)

In situations like these I have to ask...why not just quit or at least lateral?

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thirdtierlaw (Nov 13, 2018 - 1:16 pm)

Because it really wasn't about the biglaw job. The stress and overall expectations of biglaw attorneys almost certainly did not help. However, this guy would likely to have the same types of issues in any type of job that required him to perform or manage projects, be it working in as an attorney or a school administrator.

It's sad. Mental health issues are something that many attorneys struggle with, from public defenders to solos to biglaw associates, and should be addressed. However, his suicide is much more complex than just pointing the finger at the law firm.

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jeffm (Nov 13, 2018 - 3:53 pm)

How can anyone else be blamed? My guess is the story is typical. Young man wants to hit the big time and show everyone what a success he is. He plays the game. He gets caught in it. He puts his pride before his sanity and plays on until he can't take it anymore.

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triplesix (Nov 13, 2018 - 3:53 pm)

I wish biglawl would eat them all

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ibrslave (Nov 13, 2018 - 4:45 pm)

Yes, this is very tragic but also not unexpected under the circumstances. Mental illness+binge drinking+typical stressful work and long hours at a big law firm+recklesss ambition+fear of failure+possible chip on shoulder due to lack of prestige+typical domestic issues as described by widow+being middle aged and burned out on a damned mattress store bankruptcy case=suicide

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themapmaster (Nov 13, 2018 - 10:23 pm)

is there any statistical evidence that biglaw partners commit suicide more frequently than non biglaw lawyers? It seems that whenever I see a published write up of a lawyer killing himself, it is a biglaw lawyer. If statistically big law lawyers are more likely to kill themselves, then it’s a legitimate biglaw-centric issue, but if the suicide rates are comparable or higher among lawyers generally, then I think we just get news article like this because it interests us that someone could be very mentally unhealthy while simultaneously being highly succesful career wise. Interesting perhaps, but nothing that should make us condemn biglaw culture.

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wutwutwut (Nov 14, 2018 - 7:21 am)

It's just because of ATL's roots as a legal trash tabloid.

They're paparazzi chasing celebs and in the legal world appellate judges and biglaw partners are the celebs, whereas a midlaw partner who killself is not even on the D list, not clickworthy.

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cranky (Nov 14, 2018 - 11:01 am)

That is very true. In the past few years, 2 attorneys I sort of knew killed themselves, but there was only a small local news article about the solo who walked into freeway traffic. A couple of others died under odd circumstances (one had drinking problems and DWI), but the greater media paid no mind to their deaths. It's only when these big name law firm attorneys kill themselves that these websites report anything.

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mtbislife (Nov 14, 2018 - 11:29 am)

Lol, working 80 hour weeks while watching your health and family fall apart has been completely normalized in American society, you are right.

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jdslug (Nov 13, 2018 - 10:31 pm)

Get rich or die trying

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wallypancake (Nov 15, 2018 - 10:54 am)

How compelled did this guy feel to stay with Sidley? He could have moved to an in-house position with those credentials. If he was suicidal then he must have shown signs before. Why didn't his wife, also a lawyer, intervene and tell him that it is just not worth it?

I agree that biglaw had a hand in it, though he was the one who pulled the trigger. However, playing the helpless widow victim when she saw him deteriorate is also inaccurate.

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somefed (Nov 15, 2018 - 5:14 pm)

I don't think you can blame her. She said in the article that she urged him to leave the biglaw job but he refused. She actually is a victim because she is left without her spouse in the aftermath of his suicide

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onehell (Nov 15, 2018 - 12:47 pm)

So a man had to die because a company that makes freaking mattresses couldn't pay its bills.

A world that allows something so stupid to matter so much has something fundamentally wrong with it.

You do the best you can for your clients, but firms have got to adopt a "win some lose some" attitude. Maybe you'll get forced to liquidate, maybe you'll get taken over by your creditors, maybe you'll remain a debtor in possession. In all likelihood you'll reach some kind of agreement eventually and no matter what, life will go on. Not sure all the ultra-perfectionism ultimately makes a difference in the end-result, other than to up the fees and drive the people billing those hours to this kind of thing.

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whiteguyinchina (Nov 16, 2018 - 11:25 pm)

my friend's dad worked at a gas station and killed himself.

mental illness is really all around us. and suicide always surprises.

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