Over the past few days, we’ve learned a lot about Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers college student and talented violinist who killed himself after his roommate streamed, live on the internet, a hidden webcam video of Tyler hooking up with another man. On September 22, a few days after the incident, Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.
Former ATL editor Kashmir Hill has learned even more. She’s been tracking Clementi’s digital footprints, and found that he went to a message board for gay men seeking counsel after he learned of his roommate’s prank.
I used the word “prank” because that’s how I see the actions of Tyler Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi. Ravi is an 18-year-old kid in his first semester at college. Along with a friend, Molly Wei, Ravi pulled a prank on his new roommate — one that went horribly wrong.
Because Clementi killed himself, the media has worked itself into a rabid lather over Ravi’s and Wei’s actions. The story was all over the New York Times yesterday. Michael Daly criticized Ravi so harshly I thought I was reading about some kind of modern day Billy Zabka in the New York Daily News this morning. Some gay rights groups want Ravi to be charged with a hate crime.
Before we crucify this college freshman, I have a couple of questions…
* Real Wall Street types opine on Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. I’m using their input for the screenplay I’m working on, Wall Street: Money Flees America. [Hellerman Baretz]
* Let’s be clear: we need more lawyers. We just need them to work for poor or lower-middle-class clients. Wouldn’t it be awesome if law school tuition came down so that more people could do this work? Otherwise, we might just have to find a way to obviate the need for lawyers altogether. [Truth on the Market]
We really don’t like writing about murders, suicides, and murder suicides here on Above the Law. They are always sad, the loss of human life is always tragic, and it’s really hard to be funny/snarky/edgy when people have died.
That said, we have to go where the news takes us, and so we press on today with a roundup of people in the legal community who recently met untimely ends. A Department of Justice lawyer took his own life, and an office manager for Townsend and Townsend and Crew allegedly killed her estranged husband, before turning the gun on herself…
Clare Lenore Stoudt, a 35-year-old mother of five, was found dead in her home over the weekend. Stoudt was a tax associate at Pillsbury Winthrop. According to the ABA Journal, authorities believe that Stoudt may have been the victim of a murder-suicide:
The father of her three youngest children, Reginald Van Graves, 49, also was found apparently shot to death in the Howard County home, and a gun was in the vicinity, authorities say. A custody case over the three children, aged 2, 5 and 7, had begun less than a week earlier in Howard County Circuit Court.
The Howard County Times reports that police say the deaths may have been a murder-suicide. Autopsies have not yet been completed, however, and the investigation has not concluded.
Christine Kearns, managing partner for Pillsbury’s D.C. office, released the following statement for the firm….
A couple of weeks ago, we talked about the decision by Philip Markoff, aka the Craigslist Killer, to take his own life. Today we’re seeing another version of that kind of thinking — less high-profile, less fatal, but still pretty harrowing.
The Dallas Morning News reports that a Texas man slashed his own throat — in the courtroom — after receiving a 40-year sentence for assault:
Marcial Michael Anguiano pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for cutting his niece with a butcher knife. After state District Judge Larry Mitchell announced Anguiano’s sentence, Anguiano cut himself with a razor blade.
“As soon as the judge sentenced him, I saw him do something with his right arm,” said Anguiano’s defense attorney, Juan Sanchez. “I turned and he cut himself with something he had brought into the courtroom.”
After Markoff offed himself, Professor Douglas Berman wrote on his blog, Sentencing Law and Policy, that from a utilitarian perspective we should be happy about Markoff’s suicide. But here Anguiano’s self-mutilation was a disaster, from a utilitarian point of view, for the state of Texas…
Here’s an interesting issue for the pro-death penalty crowd: If killing violent offenders passes as justice, are they happy when a violent offender kills himself? That’s the question being bandied about the blogosphere in the wake of Philip Markoff’s apparent suicide.
Markoff was in jail awaiting trial as the “Craigslist Killer.” He allegedly murdered Julissa Brisman after meeting her on Craigslist.
[A]ssuming he was guilty, my first reaction here is to be pleased. By killing himself, Markoff saved a lot of time, money and energy for those who would be tasked with prosecuting and defending him. And the family of his victim would, I hope, get some measure of closure from Markoff’s death.
Actually, the family of the victim does not seem at all pleased by Markoff’s apparent suicide…
There was unhappy news out of Chicago last week. Stewart Dolin, an M&A partner at Reed Smith, was struck and killed by a train on Thursday. According to the Chicago Tribune, the coroner has ruled the death a suicide.
Dolin was the co-chair of Reed Smith’s corporate and securities practice. He lived in Glencoe, north of Chicago, and was hit by a northbound train at a Blue Line station in the Loop at 1:45 p.m.
When suicides happen, many firms will turn the person’s website bio into a temporary “in memoriam” page, but Dolin’s bio has been removed. A firm spokesman tells us: “After conferring with the family we kept our communication memorializing Stu internal.”
The managing partner in the Chicago office has issued a statement about Dolin’s death.
How big of a problem is suicide on law school campuses? Recently, a suicide tragedy affected the UNC Law community. In December, a student at Michigan Law took his own life. And there have been sad and high-profile suicides in Biglaw too.
It’s impossible to assess the precise role the recession may have played in these recent tragedies. It’s a little too easy to blame everything on a shaky economy and uncertain job prospects. The thoughts that flash through the head of a person about to take his or her own life are deeply complicated .
The old platitudes — e.g., “if you are feeling overwhelmed, get help” — seem meaningless in the face of actual death.
It appears that some law school and university communities are taking more aggressive steps towards suicide prevention. At NYU and Cornell, officials are trying to limit access to potential suicide points on campus.
Are these steps necessary? More to the point, will these steps be effective?
Ed. note: This post is written by Will Meyerhofer, a Biglaw attorney turned psychotherapist, whom we profiled last week. A former Sullivan & Cromwell associate, he holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work. He blogs at The People’s Therapist. Last October, a law school placement director friend of mine forwarded me an email with a juicy piece of big law gossip. A former associate at Sullivan & Cromwell had offed himself. He was 39.
The body was discovered beneath a highway bridge in Toronto. A few days earlier, it was revealed that since the mid-90′s, he and a co-conspirator made ten million dollars on an insider trading scheme. He’d stolen insider information from S&C, arriving early in the morning to dig through waste baskets, rifle through partners’ desks, and employ temporary word-processor codes to break into the computer system.
“You can’t make this shit up,” was my friend’s comment. “Wasn’t he from around your time?”
It took a minute to locate the face. Gil Cornblum. Jewish, a bit pudgy, with big round glasses. Gil, in that ridiculous little office two doors down from mine.
What was Gil like? Mild-mannered, pleasant, always smiling.
I should have known something was wrong.
John Mason Mings, an IP partner in the Houston office of Baker & Hostetler, committed suicide on Monday. AmLaw Daily reports on the 45-year-old lawyer’s death:
Witnesses observed Mings sitting by himself on the waters edge early Monday afternoon. Police called to the scene found Mings laying partially in the water, dead from a single gunshot wound to the head.
His firm bio remains available, though it includes an “In Memoriam” message. The Duke Law grad had formerly been a partner at Fulbright & Jaworski, before joining Baker in December 2008.
As AmLaw Daily notes, depression is a serious problem for lawyers:
A recent study found that depression among attorneys is on the rise, coinciding with increasingly bleak economic forecasts.
One expert has claimed that the typical personality traits and training of lawyers often prevents them from seeking treatment for emotional problems and substance abuse, which in turn leads to higher rates of depression in the profession. The American Bar Association has found that suicide among lawyers occurs two to six times more than among the general population.
Another recent suicide led the WSJ Law Blog to write a post today on technology, social isolation, and suicide.
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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