Mental Health

She’s coming down with a bad case of ‘going to get a pony.’

Remember the “affluenza” kid? His name is Ethan Couch and the teenager went on an alcohol-fueled joyride after a party in the mansion his parents had bought for him. The joyride resulted in the death of 4 people and the injury of multiple others as alcohol-fueled joyrides are wont to do. Except Couch avoided the fate of pretty much any other person who might kill 4 people on the back of a clinical psychologist’s expert opinion that Couch suffered from a mental condition that he coined as “affluenza” — basically as a rich, privileged tool, the kid couldn’t be held responsible for his actions.

Most people found this ridiculous. Elie went so far as to call for the parents to be jailed. Which has a certain Nancy Grace-style emotional appeal, but also kind of feeds the argument that this kid himself should continue to remain shielded from the consequences of his actions. It also fans the flames of the same parent-policing logic that ends with people getting arrested for letting their kids play outside. But in any event, the fact that a juvenile system judge with a reputation for harsh punishments for poor, black kids — she sent a 14-year-old black kid to jail for 10 years for punching a kid who fell and hit his head resulting in his death — sent a 16-year-old, rich, white kid willfully driving drunk to a country club rehab facility — conveniently paid for mostly by taxpayers — exposed everything wrong with privilege in America.

Now the case raises another debate about privilege. One of the victims who survived the accident is suing and wants to see exactly how this clinical psychologist came to his groundbreaking diagnosis that rich kids don’t have to go to jail, and Couch’s lawyers are fighting that disclosure tooth and nail….

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Dr. N. Robert Riordan

Dr. N. Robert Riordan is a graduate of NYU School of Law and a former U.S. securities attorney for London- and Sydney-based Herbert Smith Freehills. After 10 years of practice in New York, London and Rome, he made the switch from corporate law to private practice as a clinical psychologist. Dr. Riordan now acts as a therapist to dozens of NYC attorneys. The following is the second of a two-part interview with Dr. Riordan. (You can read the first part here.)

ATL: In addition to professionals like attorneys, whom do you see in your private practice?

The remainder of my practice focuses on couples. I work with two distinct types of couples. First, I see couples whose romantic relationships are in crisis. The goal here is to improve their bond to one another. I happen to see many couples where both parties are professionals, and, most often, each member of the couple is struggling to balance personal and professional demands.

ATL: I would imagine that couples come to treatment for a variety of reasons.

I work with many couples whose connection to one another has been strained by things like demanding careers, childrearing, or an unexpected financial hardship. These couples are looking to recapture the connection that originally brought them together and to start working as a partnership again. Also I work with a handful of couples who are facing specific challenges, like infidelity or the loss of a child.

ATL: Has your training as an attorney prepared you for the conflicts that presumably arise in couples’ therapy?

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Having personally experienced the lows of depression and the positive energy that comes from blogging and social media, I have to believe the effective use of social media could prevent depression for many lawyers.

In a story outside of law, AP sportswriter John Marshall (@jmarshallap) reported Monday on the positive impact social media is having on a six-time Olympic gold medal winner, Amy Van Dyken (@amyvandyken), just a few weeks after she suffered a life-threatening spinal injury.

Not long after Van Dyken’s first surgery, her husband Tom Rouen, a former punter for the Denver Broncos, placed a cellphone in her hands:

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Dr. N. Robert Riordan

Dr. N. Robert Riordan is a graduate of NYU School of Law and a former U.S. securities attorney for London- and Sydney-based Herbert Smith Freehills. After 10 years of practice in New York, London and Rome, he made the switch from corporate law to private practice as a clinical psychologist. Dr. Riordan now acts as a therapist to dozens of NYC attorneys. The following is the first of a two-part interview with Dr. Riordan.

ATL: The most obvious question first – why the switch from law to clinical psychology?

The short answer is: I grew up. I went to law school when I was 21 years old, and I went with the belief that a law degree would serve me well no matter what I ultimately opted to do in my professional life. I never intended to practice securities law for a decade, but the work was interesting and I was given the opportunity to live in some fascinating places. In time, and with the help of a therapist, I discovered my true professional interests.

ATL: Did you set out to work with attorneys when you started your private practice?

Throughout graduate school, because I was older and a former attorney, I was assigned to work with many professionals as clients. While I have a diverse array of clients, the majority are doctors, lawyers and bankers. We speak the same language.

ATL: Our readers will want to know why attorneys are seeking therapy. Can you discuss this topic?

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In Waukesha, Wisconsin this week, two 12-year-old girls tried to murder another 12-year-old girl. Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier were charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide for allegedly stabbing their young classmate 19 times. They each face up to 65 years in prison. Though news media typically do not name juvenile criminal defendants, numerous outlets have in this case, because of the severity of the charges and because the girls were charged as adults. Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel said that bail was set for $500,000 for each defendant.

According to police, Geyser and Weier planned the crime for months in advance. They invited the victim to a sleepover at Geyser’s home on Friday, originally plotting to cover the victim’s mouth with duct tape and then stab her in the neck, before running away. Instead, they decided that they would lure the victim to a nearby park the next day. Weier told police that she knew that the park bathroom had a drain in the floor where the blood could go down.

Geyser and Weier told their victim that they were going to the park to go bird-watching and play hide-and-seek. “People that trust you are very gullible,” Geyser reportedly told a detective. They passed by a public bathroom and some trees, and then, “Stabby, stab, stab,” Geyser said.

A bicyclist discovered the victim after she crawled to a sidewalk outside the woods. The victim, who was originally in critical condition, has now stabilized, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Geyser later apologized when talking with police, then added, “It was weird that I didn’t feel remorse.” When they asked her what she was trying to do when stabbing her friend she said, “I may as well just say it: Kill her.” When police asked Weir if she understood what it meant to kill someone, she replied, “I believe it’s ending a life and I regret it.”

What motivated this horrific chain of events? The answer can be found on the internet…

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* “Ladies and gentlemen of the Jury, if my client was the shooter, why would he have left the witness alive to testify? He’s a man who finishes the damn job.” [ABA Journal]

* Who would pretend to be a lawyer who is not? Apparently this public figure. [Legal Cheek]

* Jill Abramson is out at the New York Times. Could the reason be her decision to lawyer up? [Law and More]

* If you’ve hung around ATL long enough, you’ve heard us speculate that it just doesn’t make economic sense to attend most law schools. Here’s proof — only about 50 are even worth it economically. Which is hard to believe because I thought law degrees were worth $1 million. [TaxProf Blog]

* Lawyers get depressed, and not talking about it makes it worse. [Everyday Health]

* Seven-year-old kids are developing health problems from picking tobacco, because we let children work on tobacco farms apparently. [Slate]

* The Asian American Bar Association will be conducting a trial reenactment of 22 Lewd Chinese Women next Wednesday. Register here! [AABANY]

* As the new movie comes out, lawyers are really worked up over the Godzilla intellectual property. They need to hire Jorge Rivers: Godzilla Lawyer, whose ad appears after the jump (starring Thomas Lennon)…. [The Columbus Dispatch]

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At what point can a university remove you from campus because you are suicidal? At what point is the university obligated to remove you from campus because you are suicidal? At what point is the university going to get sued regardless of how it handles your attempted suicide?

These are the questions Princeton University is facing. A student who attempted suicide is suing the school for failing to accommodate his mental illness and pressuring him to leave…

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Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Bad Therapist: A Romance, is available on Amazon, as are his previous books, Way Worse Than Being A Dentist and Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy (affiliate links).

“I never thought I’d end up working as a contract attorney doing doc review in a windowless basement,” my client bemoaned. “But then I read that piece about the lawyer who’s working as a clerk at Walmart. At least I’ve still got it over him in terms of job prestige.”

Well, you know how obsessed lawyers are with job prestige.

There’s a phrase, “the Downward Drift,” that crops up in discussions of serious mental health diagnoses like schizophrenia, and/or chronic substance abuse. The idea is that you are afflicted with serious mental illness, or become addicted to a harmful substance, which in turn leads to a slow, inevitable slide downward in terms of social class. Before long, the wealthy, Upper East Side business executive suffering from schizophrenia and/or severe alcoholism finds himself jobless, friendless, and eventually even homeless, sleeping in shelters and begging for change.

Weirdly, the same phenomenon — the Downward Drift — affects people who acquire Juris Doctor degrees…

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Bumpei Sugano of Penn Law

* A surefire way to make your mom proud of you is to file a funny amicus brief with the Supreme Court, get called out for it in the New York Times, and be lauded by us at Above the Law as having filed the “best amicus brief ever.” [Daily Beast]

* Cynthia Brim, a state judge who’s been declared legally insane, wants to return to the judicial bench she’s been suspended from. Hey, you could look at it this way: at least she’d be working for her $182K salary. [Chicago Tribune]

* Our readers will be thrilled to know that beginning this year, lawyers will become obsolete. Artificial intelligence will start taking over your jobs within the next six months or so. [Wired]

* Join the Fordham OUTLaws for a Transgender Law symposium, co-sponsored by Skadden and the LGBT Bar. One of the panelists, Erin Buzuvis, is an amazing professor from my school. [Fordham Law School]

* If you care at all about how well women and minority law students are represented on law reviews, then you’ll want to come to this important event. I’ll be there, and I hope to see you there, too! [Ms. JD]

* In case you were wondering, Penn Law successfully beat the crap out of Wharton (in terms of head to head win-loss record) during the 10th annual Wharton vs. Law Fight Night. [Wharton vs. Law: Fight Night]

* Meet Anthony Halmon, the second-year student at FIU Law who’s relying on his coolness to rock the vote for the SBA presidency. Check out his rap video, after the jump. [Daily Business Review (reg. req.)]

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Disrespecting and intimidating students should be a right for law professors, not a privilege. If you roll into class unprepared, or even just looking stupid, law professors should be able to able to throw a hissy fit at you. That’s practice-ready training. Students should learn that in the real world, partners and judges will intimidate them and make them feel small and stupid for any reason, or no reason at all.

One law professor is having that right taken away from him. He’s been barred from campus. The professor claims he’s suffering from depression and Asperger’s Syndrome, and that the school violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by not accommodating his disability.

Disability? In my day, the moody professor who couldn’t keep his mouth shut or read social cues was the grindstone against which brilliant gunners sharpened their unique skills…

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