Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Another Big Law Partner killed self

"In a rare view into the human toll that some therapists bel wolfman04/12/17
For those who can't get past the paywall, lots of money quot wolfman04/12/17
RIP notiers. 3lol04/12/17
Tl;dr;dc. With his salary they can probably hire a few m isthisit04/12/17
The only genuine fear is being 45 years old with no book of lolwutjobs04/12/17
He was 57 and drawing $1M a year from the firm. tacocheese04/12/17
Everybody's gotta die some time, Red. trickydick04/12/17
How is it even possible that he brought in $4 million in a y ruralattorney04/12/17
It's not worth it. Even if the absolute worst happens and yo parlance04/12/17
Well said. 3lol04/13/17
Exactly. It's amazing how depression can build and a destroy subprimejd04/21/17
"A former management committee member at Sachnoff & Weaver, mrlollipop04/13/17
^ Sadly, narcissism and elitism run deep in this profession. ejs201704/13/17
Suffering is just part of the human condition. Some people s tacocheese04/13/17
The real victims of the 21st century labour markets. I feel triplesix04/13/17
wolfman (Apr 12, 2017 - 2:10 pm)

"In a rare view into the human toll that some therapists believe Big Law mergers can have, Dolin’s therapist, Sydney Reed, testified this week that her former client was worried his Loyola University Chicago School of Law degree was inadequate at a firm now full of graduates from Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale."

"When he expressed fears of losing his ability to provide for his family and becoming a “bag lady,” Reed said she reminded Dolin that he billed $4 million in work the previous year. And she doubted his concern that he was the lone partner to feel anxious about the merger."

http://www.newyorklawjournal.com/home/id=1202782753266/ExReed-Smith-Partners-Suicide-Trial-Highlights-Anxiety-in-Big-Law-Mergers?mcode=1202615068447&curindex=1

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wolfman (Apr 12, 2017 - 2:14 pm)

For those who can't get past the paywall, lots of money quotes here, they brought in the People's TheRapist to opine as well, LOL (I had to edit to remove the s... word haha):

Just weeks before Stewart Dolin committed suicide in 2010, he told his therapist he still felt anxious about his position at Reed Smith, the global firm he had joined as a result of its 2007 merger with his former home, 140-lawyer Chicago firm Sachnoff & Weaver.

To the outside world, Dolin’s position may have seemed secure. A former management committee member at Sachnoff & Weaver, the 57-year-old had been chosen to lead Reed Smith’s corporate and securities practice. But his therapist testified this week in a Chicago trial over Dolin’s suicide that the 2007 merger left him for years racked with anxiety and self-doubt.
Dolin’s widow is suing GlaxoSmithKline plc, alleging that a generic version of the pharmaceutical giant’s antidepressant Paxil is to blame for her husband’s death. Wendy Dolin, herself a therapist, is seeking $12 million. GSK claims that law firm stress and a history of anxiety led to her husband’s suicide.

In a rare view into the human toll that some therapists believe Big Law mergers can have, Dolin’s therapist, Sydney Reed, testified this week that her former client was worried his Loyola University Chicago School of Law degree was inadequate at a firm now full of graduates from Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale.

Dolin told Reed that he feared his Midwest practice wouldn’t translate to the international stage, she said on the stand. He also told her he felt “incompetent.” Dolin would not discuss any of these anxieties with his colleagues, she said.

“He was unwilling to use the concept of anxiety in terms of talking with people about the merger,” Reed said in a video deposition. “That just wasn’t professional behavior in a law firm.”

GSK’s lawyers at King & Spalding and Dentons argue that these workplace stresses led to Dolin’s suicide. Dolin’s lawyers at Los Angeles’ Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman and Chicago’s Rapoport Law Offices claim he had overcome such workplace stresses in the past. They say the difference, in June 2010, was Dolin’s generic Paxil prescription.

Three therapists who specialize in treating lawyers recently told The American Lawyer that the nervous feelings expressed by Dolin are common among their Am Law 100 clients, especially after mergers, when a lawyer’s hard-earned role in a firm can feel freshly up for grabs. For high-achieving personality types driven to Big Law, the therapists said a renewed sense of competition can shake their clients’ confidence and leave them with fears of being discovered as a “fraud,” something similar to the concerns that Dolin’s therapist described in courtroom testimony.

Talking about such feelings can be one of the best treatments for anxiety and depression, therapists said. But they noted that conversations around mental health are still seen as a career risk in the competitive and emotionally closed-off culture of Big Law. Other companies, such as global accounting firm KPMG LLP and food industry giant Unilever plc, have programs that encourage employees to discuss their mental health with managers.

Therapists said those programs mostly do not exist in Big Law, despite lawyers experiencing persistently higher rates of depression and suicide than the general population.

“There is a sort of overall prohibition at large U.S. firms of bringing people’s personal lives into the workplace,” said clinical psychologist N. Robert Riordan, a former lawyer at Herbert Smith Freehills who now treats some members of his former profession. “That was my experience working in large U.S. firms, and there really isn’t a system in place to be seeking some kind of emotional reassurance.”

Dolin’s therapist testified that she often attempted to reassure him of his place at Reed Smith. When Dolin said his regional practice would be tossed aside by an international firm, Reed told him there must be a reason why a global firm like Reed Smith wanted to merge with his Midwestern firm.
When he expressed fears of losing his ability to provide for his family and becoming a “bag lady,” Reed said she reminded Dolin that he billed $4 million in work the previous year. And she doubted his concern that he was the lone partner to feel anxious about the merger.

“The facts in terms of his professional performance had to be pulled out of him when he felt he wouldn’t make it at this international law firm,” said Reed, who described Dolin’s negative thinking as out of touch with the reality he faced at Reed Smith. “The other part would be I’d ask him, ‘Do you think there’s anxiety in other partners?’ He’d be surprised by that question.”

As a group, 28 percent of lawyers struggle with some level of depression, said a study last year co-founded by the American Bar Association. That’s compared with less than 8 percent for the general population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, the CDC said in a 2012 analysis that the legal industry had the 11th-highest incidence of suicide among occupations, with 18.8 people out of 100,000 taking their lives, compared to 16.1 nationally.

Even so, as law firm mergers have been occurring at a historic pace over the past four years, there are no indications that an increased number of Big Law partners are committing suicide.
Kent Zimmermann, a consultant who advises on law firm combinations for The Zeughauser Group, said a part of typical merger discussions involves partners leaving a firm. That can be the result of an increased pressure to meet a larger firm’s billable hour requirements or profitability standards.

“Some of that pressure can increase in the context of uncertainty like a merger, particularly for marginal and underperforming lawyers,” Zimmermann said.

Still, he said a lawyer like Dolin who billed $4 million would have had plenty of options to continue successfully practicing law and making a healthy living. (Dolin typically earned more than $1 million, according to courtroom testimony in the suit against GSK.)

“What I have a hard time with, though, is a guy bringing in $4 million a year with a higher-rate practice being driven over the edge by a merger,” Zimmermann said. “That doesn’t add up. He could have done well in any number of firms if he didn’t want to be in that one. Even today, if there was a $4 million partner in a leadership role who didn’t like the direction his firm was going, he’d have many options to make a lot of money.”

Alan Levin practiced law in Chicago for 30 years and is now a psychotherapist who treats lawyers. He said many of his current clients have feelings of inadequacy like Dolin’s, which Levin called “toxic shame.” It’s a feeling that lawyers can be especially susceptible to when their identity is wrapped up in their work as a lawyer, Levin said.

“Shame is the feeling that ‘I am bad,’” Levin added. “It’s about the self. So if my self is, “I’m a lawyer,” and the truth that I feel I know—but I’m afraid others might find out—is that I’m not good enough at being a lawyer, it becomes toxic shame.”

Riordan said those feelings of inadequacy and fraudulence can arise in lawyers whose self-worth is derived from their lawyering.

“Because their self-esteem is anchored to something outside of themselves, they feel terrific when they get a gold star,” Riordan said. “But the next day when they don’t get a gold star, they feel like s...t.”

While mental health is a difficult subject to broach in most work environments, therapists who specialize in treating lawyers note that the competitive culture at Big Law firms makes partners and associates especially loath to express anxiety about their abilities among colleagues.

KPMG promoted a day of discussion on mental health issues among its employees in January as part of a broader initiative to get them to open up about depression or other ailments. Unilever has won awards for its “ Lamplighter” program that gives employees access to mental health counselors and encourages more open communication among its staff.

“From a mental health perspective, that is a phenomenal initiative,” Riordan said of those programs. “It is just not something that we see as a trend in law firms.”

In the absence of open dialogue within law firms, Levin is building in Chicago a group therapy session for high-powered lawyers. The group, which consists of clients he also sees individually, first met in January and has three members. He wants to grow the group to eight and then start more.

“Just think for a minute what it would be like to sit with a group of lawyers [and] be able to share the fear that, boy, you know, I’m feeling like I’m only as good enough as the last time I screwed up,” Levin said. “Or I’m only as good as getting it right yesterday. I’m in constant terror of malpractice.”

Levin, a former senior partner at Chicago’s Laner Muchin whose current practice has offices in the Windy City and nearby Evanston, Illinois, hears expressions of those feelings often.

“I work with that kind of stuff all the time. And it’s common,” he said. “And it’s so remarkable to see what it’s like when lawyers can actually talk to each other and find out, ‘Oh, you feel that way, too? What a relief.’”

Transition periods spurred on by a merger or promotion from associate to partner often result in piqued levels of lawyer stress, said therapists.

Dolin’s widow testified that her husband felt increased pressures during two mergers: First when he was at a smaller firm that joined Sachnoff & Weaver and then when the latter was absorbed into Reed Smith. When Dolin first began therapy in 2007, Reed noted that the “presenting problem” he offered was stress related from his firm’s combination with Reed Smith.

“It does leave a lot of people with a lot of anxiety,” said Wil Meyerhofer, a former associate at Sullivan & Cromwell who is now a psychotherapist in New York treating other lawyers. “Formerly secure leadership positions in what seemed to be stable entities are now unstable. It’s a little dislocating to lawyers.”

Meyerhofer said he hears about situations like Dolin’s all the time.

“In the old days, when things seemed much more predictable, you worked your way up and made partner,” Meyerhofer said. “It seems every year the business gets more unpredictable and more about money.”

Therapists like Meyerhofer stressed that the most important message for lawyers who feel isolated in their anxiety is that they are not alone. That’s something Dolin’s therapist, Reed, emphasized with him. During his treatment in 2007, at the height of Sachnoff & Weaver’s merger discussions,

Reed testified that Dolin ran into another lawyer from Reed Smith on Chicago’s “L” train.
“My God, it’s a zoo down there,” Reed said the other lawyer told Dolin.
“See, I told you they’d be anxious,” Reed said to Dolin. “Everybody’s anxious in a transition.”

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3lol (Apr 12, 2017 - 2:11 pm)

RIP notiers.

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isthisit (Apr 12, 2017 - 2:22 pm)

Tl;dr;dc.

With his salary they can probably hire a few more associates. I need the name of the firm so I can check their job openings.

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lolwutjobs (Apr 12, 2017 - 2:49 pm)

The only genuine fear is being 45 years old with no book of business or ability to bring in clients. I assume he was a partner based on skill (didn't read)

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tacocheese (Apr 12, 2017 - 6:22 pm)

He was 57 and drawing $1M a year from the firm.

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trickydick (Apr 12, 2017 - 6:52 pm)

Everybody's gotta die some time, Red.

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ruralattorney (Apr 12, 2017 - 7:07 pm)

How is it even possible that he brought in $4 million in a year?

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parlance (Apr 12, 2017 - 11:11 pm)

It's not worth it. Even if the absolute worst happens and your career comes to a complete end, all the hard work and sacrifice to become an attorney does not dictate that you just hit the off-button when it seems like this chapter of your life is over.

Because I myself had a suicidal scare (right around the same time, ironically) and lived to see my life take many twists and turns thereafter, I have since learned that life is more like a maze rather than a rocket taking off. You're not always on the upswing; you just want to believe such when the hard times have subsided. But getting through the hard times is the other part of life and that's the way it will always be. It's also important to remember that you're not alone in your struggles. I now remember all of that whenever I'm confronted with challenges that seem way beyond my level.

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3lol (Apr 13, 2017 - 9:05 am)

Well said.

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subprimejd (Apr 21, 2017 - 2:04 pm)

Exactly. It's amazing how depression can build and a destroy a man making a million a year. Yet the beach bums are content bumming for booze and smokes

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mrlollipop (Apr 13, 2017 - 7:05 am)

"A former management committee member at Sachnoff & Weaver, the 57-year-old had been chosen to lead Reed Smith’s corporate and securities practice"

I don't get it. Shouldn't he be proud of himself for this achievement, instead of worrying whether his law degree impresses those Ivy League kids? I have met plenty Ivy League graduated lawyers who are completely unfit for biglaws.

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ejs2017 (Apr 13, 2017 - 8:06 am)

^ Sadly, narcissism and elitism run deep in this profession. It gets to people. Whether it was objectively true or not, perhaps this poor guy feared that his lack of elite pedigree would result in being pushed out the door by his firm.

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tacocheese (Apr 13, 2017 - 9:31 am)

Suffering is just part of the human condition. Some people suffer more even though they are "well off" by other people's standards (and vice versa).

We are conflict-driven creatures. We even find conflict in ourselves.

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triplesix (Apr 13, 2017 - 11:17 am)

The real victims of the 21st century labour markets. I feel so bad for those silent heros and warriors, the struggle is indeed real for the top earners. Their pain and stories deserve more coverage so that the rest of the country earning sub 100k poverty wages know just how good they have it.

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