Suicide

It’s getting close to the July bar exam. After the Fourth of July holiday is really when the pressure and the stress increases. It’s not a fun time as most exam takers have much of their professional futures invested in passing this exam.

That pressure can be overwhelming for an otherwise healthy individual. But if a person is trying to go through it while dealing with some mental or emotional issues, the bar exam can be downright dangerous.

A sad story about a student who apparently took his own life while preparing to take the exam for a third time has been making its way around the internet. Some lawyers are hoping this death will inspire law schools and bar associations to be more aware of the problem and act to help young people at risk…

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Paul Mannina

Today we’ve got some somber news out of Washington, D.C., where Paul Mannina, a Labor Department attorney who worked in the Division of Plan Benefits Security, was found dead in his jail cell. This isn’t your everyday lawyer death. Mannina was being held because a judge found him to be a danger to the community — you see, this labor lawyer was accused of brutally beating and sexually assaulting his coworker, a fellow attorney.

Authorities have not yet classified Mannina’s death as a suicide, but just hours prior to his death, he was denied release from jail to seek mental health care. Continue reading for some additional details about the underlying case and the grisly scene in Mannina’s jail cell…

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The classic version of lawyer suicide (and yes, it happens so often in this profession that there are “classic” representations of the problem) is the big-city lawyer who sold his soul, and possibly his ethics, who kills himself when the authorities come circling. Another tired trope is the hyper-stressed lawyer working in a high-rise who jumps out of a window when he loses a big case or a big client. Or maybe you think of the over-achieving law student who throws himself in front of a train or off of a bridge during exam season.

Lawyer suicide is so common that I think a disproportionate rate of early, self-inflicted death is just considered part of the price of doing business. Maybe hazard pay should be built into lawyer salaries like it is for race car drivers or test pilots.

But the longer I cover the legal profession, the more I learn that lawyer suicide is happening more than I think, in places where I wouldn’t expect it. Today’s sad piece is about a rash of lawyer suicides in a small state…

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Banks need panic buttons. Jodie Foster needs a panic room. I only panic when it’s nine in the afternoon. But the thought that American law schools should have a panic button in their career services office didn’t occur to me until I attended the NALP panel on spotting mental health issue in the law school community.

The panel consisted of Hanna Stotland, a career and admissions consultant; Dr. Nada Stotland, Professor of Psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center; and William Chamberlain, Director of Career Services at DePaul Law School.

I thought I was in for a touchy-feely hour about how it’s wrong to exclude the awkward gunner in the front row from all the reindeer games. Instead it was a sobering medical breakdown of the mental illnesses that afflict 20 percent of law students — and what career services officers can do to help stop people from literally killing themselves, which happens at way more law schools than I realized.

And yeah, your CSO should probably get a panic button installed if it doesn’t have one already….

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Cynthia Wachenheim

Elie’s story earlier today about Cynthia Wachenheim, a Columbia Law School graduate and New York court attorney who took her own life and almost killed her infant son, has generated a lot of controversy. See, for example, the more than 100 comments on the original story.

Here at Above the Law, we believe in providing a wide range of viewpoints on different issues. Keep reading for a detailed and heartfelt message from a friend of Wachenheim who provides a counterpoint to Elie’s point of view….

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Strapped in this, the child survived his mother’s jump out an eighth-floor window.

I was hoping to avoid this story because it’s horrible and I didn’t want to deal with it. But it’s all over the news now and so we have to talk about it.

A lawyer, Cynthia Wachenheim, on leave from the Manhattan Supreme Court, jumped to her death from a Harlem apartment with her 10-month-old son strapped to her body in an Ergo baby carrier. The baby survived.

I know that society requires and expects me to use restraint or even show sympathy for suicide “victims.” But I just can’t muster the will to conform to social conventions in this case. This woman left behind a 13-page suicide note (of course a lawyer leaves a 13-page suicide note) explaining that she thought her baby had cerebral palsy based on internet research (doctors found nothing wrong with the child). When nobody believed her crazy rantings, her solution was to try to kill her own child — as if even an actual diagnosis of CP was worse than death.

Screw this woman….

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Killing your mother is unnatural. Personally, I think trying to ascribe a “motive” or a “reason” somebody would do such a thing is a little bit futile.

But the cops are saying that a recent Villanova Law graduate, struggling as a contract attorney, shot his mother over Christmas. Then, he killed himself.

“We’ll never know his motive,” said Marion County Sheriff’s Capt. Robert Sandlin. “What is our opinion? Financial. He had a lot of student loans that were outstanding.”

The guy’s father also died under suspicious circumstances…

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* The early numbers for the Am Law 100 are in, and it looks like Husch Blackwell’s gross revenue grew by six percent in 2012 after a two-year decline. Hmm… perhaps the firm is saving money by cutting back on its rejection letter proofreaders. [Am Law Daily]

* “If I can’t settle with any of those parties, I will sue them.” Howrey’s trustee, Allan Diamond, plans to sue former partners of the failed firm with a vengeance — and quite “quickly” — if they refuse to cooperate with him. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Speaking of bankrupt law firms, former Dewey partner Steven Otillar may proceed with his various claims against Citibank over the repayment of his $209K capital contribution loan. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Anyone remember Amy McTeer, the attorney who doubled as an apparent model for “faces of meth”? She resigned from the bar after allegedly helping her boyfriend escape from jail. Classy! [National Law Journal]

* Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney whose name was dragged through the mud after Aaron Swartz’s suicide, claims she intended to recommend only a six-month sentence for the deceased internet hero. [Bloomberg]

Don’t sue her because she’s beautiful: Constance Jablonski (via Getty).

* Not a Victoria’s Secret angel’s fantasy: being sued for $3.3 million. [Fashionista]

* Should a widow be able to extract sperm from the body of her husband, who recently committed suicide, so she can have a child with him? Some thoughts from Professor Glenn Cohen of Harvard Law. [Bill of Health]

* Speaking of suicide, controversy over the prosecution of the late Aaron Swartz rages on. [How Appealing and Instapundit]

* Professor Ann Althouse isn’t a fan of the “if we can save one life” argument for gun control. [Althouse]

* I don’t know anything about football, but even I chuckled at this. [Life in Biglaw]

* ‘Tis the season… for replacing law school deans. Congratulations to Michael Hunter Schwartz, the new dean at Arkansas – Little Rock. [Faculty Lounge]

After the jump, Elie challenges Mike Bloomberg to make him skinny….

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DaNae Couch

* “I’m a New Yorker, and I jaywalk with the best of them.” Don’t be fooled by the rocks job that she’s got — she’s still, she’s still Jenny Sonia from the block. The Supreme Court’s very own wise Latina, author of a new memoir (affiliate link), is proud of her city. [New York Times; 60 Minutes]

* If you’re looking for an M&A adviser, you’d be wise to seek out counsel from Skadden Arps. The firm swept three separate rankings lists based on the total value of its clients’ 2012 M&A transactions. [Am Law Daily]

* Only in the world of legal education could the dean of a law school that isn’t even numerically ranked by U.S. News have the highest salary of all law deans nationwide. (We’ll likely have more on this later.) [Boston Globe]

* Arizona schools will allow 3Ls to take the bar exam, but New York schools may soon do away with 3L year altogether. Of course, the ABA will find a way to muck it up, but still, hooray for progress! [National Law Journal]

* Remember “Made in Jersey,” the show about a stereotypical Jersey girl who made the jump to Biglaw? Yeah, neither does anyone else. Hopefully “Staten Island Law” won’t face the same fate. [New York Daily News]

* “Sexiness is all about being a woman of character.” Our congratulations go out to DaNae Couch, the Texas Tech law student who advanced to the Top 10 of the Miss America competition. You go girl! [Lubbock Online]

* Aaron Swartz — Reddit co-founder, friend of Larry Lessig, felony hacking defendant — RIP. [New York Times]

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