At the time, we didn’t have the autopsy report (as we noted in our story). But I, and some of Johnstone’s Skadden colleagues, used her passing as an occasion for reflecting on nature of working in Biglaw.
The autopsy is out now. While the cause of death is inconclusive, the toxicology report found no trace of drugs….
At the time of her death, some of Johnstone’s friends and colleagues at Skadden wondered if she’d turned to “performance enhancers” to keep up with the demanding pace of her practice. Other friends told us that she was experiencing hair loss. While the report makes clear that Johnstone was working very hard, apparently to the point where it was affecting her health, the coroner found no drugs:
The responding officer interviewed Johnstone’s mother at the scene. Julie Johnstone said her daughter “worked herself very thin” and “worked over 80 hours a week.” She also told the officer that Lisa was recently treated for being dehydrated and had an ulcer in the past and that she “was not known to smoke, drink, or use drugs.” Johnstone’s brother told the investigator that his sister “sounded more frazzled than usual” when he’d spoken to her a few weeks before and “was getting off work extremely late.”
Nothing in the report suggests that Johnstone was losing her hair, as Above the Law suggested. As for drugs, a full toxicology study found no traces of alcohol or drugs of any kind in Johnstone’s system. The report did note that a Redondo Beach detective retrieved two prescription medicine bottles—one for Clonazepam, which is frequently prescribed to treat anxiety, and one for the painkiller Hydrocodone—from the condo. Both were more than a year old and contained a single pill.
We can only hope that despite what is still left unknown, this report brings a measure of closure to Lisa Johnstone’s family and the many people at Skadden who knew and cared about her.