Mental Health

Have you ever thought that your law professor was a sadistic bastard? Have you ever felt like the prosecutor across the table was an emotional black hole? Would it freak you out if you turned out to be clinically right?

We’ve talked a lot about mental health recently, from panic buttons to Asperger’s (or autism spectrum disorder, if you prefer). But today we’ve come across a truly chilling article from a law professor who admits that she’s a sociopath and writes about how law is the perfect field for people like her.

I’m turning the snark meter way down on this post because, well, I don’t want to be murdered…

Note the UPDATE at the end of this post concerning the professor’s possible identity.

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When I discussed the NALP mental health panel, I noted that we are going to see more and more law students with mental health problems in the future. As mental health services get better in high school and college, people who would have washed out are going to do well enough to get into law school.

But should they go to law school? Today, we have a question from a person suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome. He got into a Top 6 law school, with scholarship money. But he wonders if he should even bother if he’ll get shut of Biglaw because of his symptoms.

Let’s see what you guys think….

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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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Note that even this guy doesn’t actually use ricin.

In news that doesn’t involve 19-year-old, “dark-skinned” Russian/Chechen nephews held up in Watertown with FAKE Twitter accounts, there’s some more information this morning on the coward who allegedly sent ricin to the president, a senator, and a judge. Think Walter White, only without the badass.

We don’t plan to publish a lot of content today, given the circumstances. If we return to a state of “peace” today, we’ll certainly get back to trying to make that sure that Gawker sorority chick ends up applying to law school.

But since the ricin story relates to the general “Jesus Christ” WTF-ness of this week, let’s examine the new details on Paul Kevin Curtis, suspected ricin mailer nutbag…

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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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Carolyn Barnes

If the law allows a mentally incompetent lawyer to represent a citizen, then the law needs to be changed, because that is ridiculous.

John Bradley, the outgoing District Attorney for Williamson County, Texas, commenting on Carolyn Barnes’s ability to represent clients from inside her unit at a state psychiatric facility. Barnes has been involuntarily committed since mid-2011, when she was found incompetent to stand trial on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Deep inside me there’s a serial killer lurking somewhere. But I keep him amused with cocaine, Formula One, booty calls, and coruscating cross-examination.

– a comment made by a successful lawyer who was interviewed by renowned psychologist and author Kevin Dutton for his new book, The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success (affiliate link).

(Want to see where lawyers rank on the top ten list of the most psychopathic professions? Check out the list, after the jump.)

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When I visited New York back in January, I stayed with some friends. When I woke up Saturday morning on the couch, my buddy and his roommate had already taken out their laptops and were typing away. I asked, “What are you guys doing today?” They both responded, “Working.”

I could not believe it. It was a surprisingly warm winter day. And my friends decided to remain cooped up in their literally windowless Manhattan apartment. Why wouldn’t they go outside? Go to park, or a bar for some day drinking.

But that’s America. We are always connected, always on call, and ignoring your BlackBerry for more than 90 minutes may be a fireable offense.

It wasn’t always this way. And there are some heretics among us who make a compelling case for a return to the 40-hour work week. Before you shoot the scruffy Californian, hear me out….

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When I was a kid, I thought only white people had to worry about being thirty-something.

I’m back. I got sick, again, with pretty much the same kind of acute sinus infection as I had the last time. It’s the second time in six months some stupid illness has completely floored me by making it hard to see and think — I definitely need at least one of those faculties to do my job.

Last time, when I got back, I was just happy to be alive and looking for somebody to blame. This time, I’m depressed. It’s probably because I was sitting the doctor’s office, and I was whining and in incredible pain and petulantly demanding answers as to why I’m having all these health problems and the guy says to me: “Well, you are getting old.”

Sigh.

I’m not the only one. And it occurs to me that, once again, I’m in much better shape for this new phase of consequences than I would be if I was still at a Biglaw firm. Because while I need to refine and hone my skills in my mid and late thirties, associates at top law firms need to gun it. They need to take their suddenly aging bodies and turn every morsel of ATP into billable hours if they want to make partner. And they need to do it now….

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