Suicide

When law deans and other law school defenders talk about the high cost of legal education, they try to justify the price in economic terms. They cite ridiculous and largely unsupported figures about the value of a law degree. They point out the cost of the faculty. Explicitly or not, they don’t see a problem with charging the absolute maximum that the market will bear. They feel no shame for enticing young people to invest in law school by any means necessary, fair or unfair.

But the unreasonable cost of law school doesn’t just play out in purely economic terms. Students who graduate with a mountain of debt pay the human costs of hopelessness, deferred dreams, and often the burden of having to rely on parents long past the point when they had hoped to be self-sufficient.

We tend to focus on the plight of unemployed law graduates, but it’s always important to remember that “winning” and landing one of the few Biglaw jobs out there that even gives you a shot to pay off your debts can be pretty awful too. The high debt makes many law graduates feel like indentured servants, forced to work jobs they don’t want, in order to service their loans.

I think there are a lot of people who will empathize with this law graduate from a top school with a Biglaw job who feels like even death isn’t a suitable way around his law school loans…

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* The lawyer who shot himself in the back and lied about it has pleaded guilty since his defense was full of self-inflicted holes. [WBIW]

* Do you want to be a partner? These 12 simple rules are a good start. (Not featured: Rule 13. Have incriminating pictures of the other partners.) [At Counsel Table]

* The University of Vermont and Vermont Law School are considering a joint “3-2″ degree program. So if you’re 18 years old and positive you want to grow up to be a lawyer, you may soon have a lower cost option. You’re also probably a tool. [AP via Boston.com]

* Can introverts be solo practitioners? It’s an interesting question, but since Growth is Dead (affiliate link) notes that even rainmakers are tragically lacking in sociability, it’s likely that most lawyers across firms are introverted. [Lawpolis]

* St. Louis University Law School has taken over and refurbished an old building in downtown St. Louis. See, it’s possible to run a law school without spending money on MOAR BUILDINGS! [Urban Review STL]

* A poem about CLE. Wait, are there people not doing their CLE online? [Poetic Justice]

* How to pick a good divorce lawyer. Done. [Huffington Post]

* Matthew Martens, the senior SEC attorney who ran the “Fabulous Fab” trial, is leaving the agency. Possible landing spots for Martens include Kirkland & Ellis; Paul Weiss; WilmerHale; Latham & Watkins; and Cleary Gottlieb. [Wealth Management]

* A judge in Kentucky moonlights as the PA announcer for high school football games. He’s also blind. Eschewing the obvious “he still sees better than the refs” joke, my question is why isn’t it just more efficient to make his spotter the PA announcer? Video after the jump…

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* Congrats to @FenwickWest on landing the big Twitter IPO! #yaylegalfees [American Lawyer]

* The Deal Professor, Steven Davidoff, surveys the legal landscape around the Twitter filing, focusing on the #JOBSAct. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Jamie McCourt, a former family law attorney, strikes out in trying to set aside her divorce settlement with Frank McCourt, former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. She’s stuck with $131 million and several luxury homes. #richpeopleproblems [National Law Journal (sub. req.)]

* An inquest reveals that a Hogan Lovells partner who took his own life had warned a colleague that he was going to kill himself the day before his death. [Daily Mail via ABA Journal]

* Good news for the news business: the Senate Judiciary Committee approves a federal media-shield bill. [Washington Wire / Wall Street Journal]

* Nathan Myhrvold, the CEO of a patent holding company, warns that anti-patent-troll sentiment could have unforeseen consequences. [Corporate Counsel]

* Praise in the WSJ for Unprecedented: The Constitutional Challenge to Obamacare (affiliate link), the new book by Professor Josh Blackman (who recently wrote a guest post for us on Supreme Court beauty contests). [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* Congrats to George Mason Law on its two high-profile hires: D.C. Circuit Judge Douglas Ginsburg and Covington antitrust partner Damien Geradin. [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]

* If you’re in New York this weekend, go see Arguendo. Or buy tickets for the 7 p.m. performance on September 22, when I’ll be doing a talkback with artistic director John Collins after the show. Enter the discount code “ABOVE” for $35 tickets (a special rate for ATL readers). [Public Theater]

Thank God for lunch breaks.

It appears that a lone gunman fired on a law office that was somehow involved in a personal injury case that was dismissed over a year ago. No lawyers were in the office at the time. The gunman, after shooting through the door to get into the office, fired multiple shots in the building before turning the gun on himself.

A Redditor whose mother works for the law office posted pictures of the damage and the crime scene. It appears that most of the firm’s employees were out to lunch…

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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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