Thursday, October 22, 2009

Attorney Commits Suicide After Being Terminated

The Wall Street Journal reported on the tragic death of a once prominent attorney who may have committed suicide after being terminated from his firm. It is worth your time to read:
"On the Tragic Story of Kilpatrick Stockton’s Mark Levy

The law firm layoffs that have swept the nation over the last 18 months or so have been a source of great pain - not only to those laid off, but to their families and friends as well. Arguably, however, no single office has felt the shockwaves of it layoffs as acutely as has the D.C. office of Kilpatrick Stockton.

It was there that on the morning of April 30, partner and Supreme Court litigator Mark Levy put a loaded handgun to his head and pulled the trigger. Levy was 59.

We wrote several posts on the tragedy (here, here and here), but, as is so often the case, didn't even come close to capturing the deeper motives behind Levy's final act.

The likelihood is that the world will never unravel the core of the mystery. But in the November issue of the ABA Journal, freelancer Richard Schmitt comes as close as anyone, in this gripping 3000-word article.

Schmitt's opening is chilling:

Mark Levy began his last day at Kilpatrick Stockton like he'd begun countless others.

He pulled his Jaguar into the garage at the law firm two blocks from the White House just before 5:30 and took the elevator up to the 11th floor.

Always an early riser, he enjoyed getting a jump on the news of the day and sharing it with friends and colleagues. His were often the first e-mails they received-a pitch to attend a Democratic fundraiser, a pat on the back for a well-written article, or his take on the latest from the U.S. Supreme Court.

But this particular Thursday morning something was different. Levy had cleared his calendar, coyly dodging the reason when he canceled lunch the day before with a longtime friend.

"He said something had come up, and that I'd be able to read about it in the papers," the friend says.

"I thought he'd gotten a big case. I was happy for him."

. . .

[But e]ven his closest professional colleagues had no inkling-and they certainly had no idea that he would sit down in his office chair the morning of April 30 and, with a .38-caliber handgun, fire a bullet into the right side of his head.

So what happened? According to Schmitt, a former legal reporter at the Wall Street Journal and LA Times: some of the answer likely lay in the fact that Levy had days earlier been asked to leave the firm.

Writes Schmitt:

Just days before he killed himself, he found out that he was being let go by Kilpatrick in a round of cost-cutting driven by the unraveling economy. He had been one of 24 lawyers nationwide laid off by the 500-lawyer firm.

Measured against massive firings elsewhere, Kilpatrick's cutbacks were unremarkable-except to those no longer employed. In many cases, layoffs have become so routine that even the gentlest protocols have been abandoned.

Levy, for instance, had asked the firm whether he could keep his office while he figured out his next move, according to his cousin Leslee Gilhooley. Even just five years before, that had been a common way to cushion the blow for senior lawyers at major firms. But not in this recession.

"When they wanted him gone, they wanted him gone," Gilhooley says.

Kilpatrick declined to comment to Schmitt, beyond a prepared statement: "We are deeply saddened by the death of Mark Levy earlier this year and our condolences continue to go out to his entire family, friends and colleagues," said Bill Dorris, the firm's co-managing partner. "Mark made such a positive impact on so many people during his life and career. He was highly respected in the legal and business communities for his numerous successful appearances before the Supreme Court of the United States. Out of respect for his family, we will not offer additional comment."

According to Schmitt, Levy “loved the practice of law, but he struggled with the business of law.” And as an appellate litigator “without a firm stable of paying clients, he grew vulnerable in a world where rainmaking is often valued over skill and judgment. For all his prestige, he had little real power behind his formidable stature.”

"He was not interested in compromising to make law a business. His pleasures in practicing law were largely intellectual and professional," says Herbert Zarov of Mayer Brown in Chicago, who worked with Levy there in the 1980s. "I suspect that change in the profession, given Mark's temperament and commitment to values, hit him real hard."

Others quoted in Schmitt's story see Levy's suicide as an indictment of the legal profession. Said one Washington lawyer who knew Levy for years: “none of us should have our self-worth tied up in our professional existence as lawyers. It is a fool's errand to do that because it is a profession that is very hard on people even when they are succeeding."

Ruth Wedgwood, a law school classmate of Levy's who is the director of the program on inter­national law and orga­nizations at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, sees his death in a broader context. "If someone like him cannot prosper in law practice, you wonder what law practice has become."
Warmest Regards,

Bob Schaller

Your Bankruptcy Advisor Blog
By: Attorney Robert Schaller (Bob's bio) of the Schaller Law Firm

Bob is a member of the National Bankruptcy College Attorney Network, American Bankruptcy Institute and the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.

I encourage you to SUBSCRIBE to this blog by completing the box to the right of this post so you will automatically receive future blog postings. Next, you can review past and future blogs at any time by clicking the "archive" link in the column to the right of this posting. Plus, you are invited to submit a question by utilizing the "question" box in the column to the right of this posting.

For information about Chapter 7 bankruptcy Click Here

For information about Chapter 13 bankruptcy Click Here

You are invited to contact Attorney Schaller at 630-655-1233 or visit his website at learn about how the bankruptcy laws can help you.

NOTE: Robert Schaller looks forward to the opportunity to talk with you about your legal issues. But please remember that all information on this blog is for advertising and general informational purposes only. Please read Bob's disclaimer.

I recommend that you review a few other blogs that may be of interest to you. These blogs are identified in the right column and are set forth below: bankruptcy issues blog; bankruptcy and family law issues blog; bankruptcy and employment issues blog; and bankruptcy and student loan issues blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment