Stressed lawyer jumps to his death

| April 27, 2007 | 3 Replies

I’ve been feeling rather stressed at work lately. There’s a lot to get done every day and the sun sets entirely too fast.  Every day I face 50 real emails, constant phone calls, dozens of litigation deadlines and lots of foot traffic, while I’m trying to write complicated legal memoranda or prepare to argue my cases.  Some lawyers seem to just go out and do it all proficiently, seemingly detaching their emotions from the situation.   Not me.  I’m a worrier and I’m somewhat driven to control things that I really can’t.  So, I do feel some stress.  I monitor it carefully and I try to take care of myself.  Everyone who survives high-stress jobs needs to keep a finger on the pulse.

During one of my recent stressful days, a friend (also a lawyer) sent me this link about a lawyer who had way more stress than he could handle.  He jumped to his death from the 69th floor of the Empire State Building.  I really didn’t need to read something like this, because I work high enough –on the 14th floor . . .

Lawyers commonly trade stories, lots of war stories, about how they were really smart or innovative or eloquent during a trial and they figured out how to get some justice for their clients.  But at the end of the day, when things are quieter, small groups of lawyers sometimes trade stories about the effect of all the stress on other lawyers.  There are many sad examples.  I know several stories up close and personal.  People do burn out, and when it happens, the symptoms are awful.  Entire families suffer the consequences when the lawyer turns to desperate measures to find relief.   There are many versions, such as alcoholism, drugs, bad judgment on handling cases, gambling.

The friend who sent me this link about the poor fellow who jumped to his death had, just a few weeks prior, told me that she had seen a TV show that “proved” this sort of thing was an urban legend.  Actually, that show tested office windows to conclude that stressed office workers can’t really crash through an office building window to jump to their deaths.  Well, now we know a way around it, at least in older office buildings.  The secret is to open the window rather than jumping through it.   

When high-stressed workers flame out, it really bothers those of us who must live with this stress.  It bothers us because society tells us that we’re supposed to just live with the stress and “deal” with it.   But tragedies like this touches a deep nerve.  They taunt us with a statement and ugly questions.  We know that someone is going to flame out next.   Who is it going to be?  Who is next?   

We know, of course, that someone will be next, and that’s why we distract ourselves with the sardonic sort of humor you can find at this site, Anonymous Lawyer.

[Upon proofreading --Just in case my words might be misconstrued, I'm merely ruminating here--personally, I'm doing fine and I look forward to a long life ahead!]

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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich and his wife, Anne Jay, live in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising their two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (3)

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  1. Mary says:

    I think that the suicide of anyone will make an empathetic person's heart ache, even if his/her life is peaches and cream. In other words, Erich, I did not misconstrue your message, but do understand the human need to ruminate on such tragedies.

  2. Erika Price says:

    I noticed that several people on that site crack some jokes about the suicidal lawyer, and then ask "too soon?" I don't find it too soon, even when nervous college students joke quietly about the Virginia Tech shootings. Humor has a way of decompressing those things that frighten us or make us horribly depressed. With an uncomfortable thing looming over us, like a suicide, a shooting, or a national disaster, humor has a way of bringing issues into the open for discussion and analysis. If we can laugh about it, maybe it can't hurt us after all. Maybe mockery asserts our dominance over tragedy.

  3. jane says:

    As a 1 year qualified lawyer in the uk I have suffered stress recently. My firm gives clients a direct line to my phone. That means I can't get my secretary to screen calls and 50 per cent of my calls could be dealt with by my secretary. As a consequence some days I can get no work done as I am busy on the phone all day long. I deal with property law and know moving and buying a house is stressfull for clients but their stress ends when the purchase is complete. Mine continues onto the next case(s) .

    No one is available to cover me if I go off sick (last week I was off with stress)and I came back to a pile of work. Additionally, clients have no respect for lawyers nowadays.

    I found a really good tip a few months ago. Only check email 3 times daily. 9am then lunch then around 4pm. Otherwise you answer a client's query and they come back with another one a couple of minutes later. It really works so I hope that helps someone else.

    Other than that well, it is 3.51am and I can't sleep so I got up and did some housework, yes, I work full time plus at least 2 hours exta daily and then go home to a family and end up doing housework. aaaaaaaaaargh!

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