Mark Edwards

A close friend’s father passed away. He was 71, a retired school teacher and a great man. A man dying at 71 used to seem far off in my comprehension of time, but as I get older, it’s really not. I learned of his death the day after ATL had posted a story about a Morgan Lewis partner who died at his desk. That same night, Joe Paterno was fired, rightfully so, and part of a campus rioted.

All three men leave tremendous legacies in their own way. They worked diligently at their chosen careers, were long-time employees, and outwardly, at least, left behind loving families, students, mentees, and friends. (I know, Paterno isn’t dead, but he is finished). I was scanning through the comments following that ATL story, and was quite frankly amazed by how “gentle” the majority of the opinions were. Something about one of “us” dying at our desks just wasn’t worthy of snark. It was worthy of reflection….

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Whenever a person passes away while they are literally at their desk, we feel compelled to mention it. When these kinds of things happen, it affects a much wider circle of people than the family and friends of the deceased. It’s almost impossible not to think of your own mortality — and what you are doing with the limited time you have — when confronted with a person who passed away while diligently working and serving his clients.

For many people, working in Biglaw until the day they die would sound like a nightmare. The nature of the profession is that the high salaries and high status attract a number of people to the field who have no desire to actually practice law or service clients over the long term. There are so many people in Biglaw who are there to make enough money so they can do other things with their life. There are so many who are trying to get out before they end up there forever.

But there are others who are in Biglaw because they like it. There are those who honestly love the work, people who get so much intellectual and even emotional satisfaction from the work that their salary and status are non-concerns.

From all indications, Mark P. Edwards, a partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius who died at his desk on Friday, was one of those people. His friends and family will mourn that his life was too short, but hopefully they will feel that he died doing what he wanted to do….

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