The Times had an extraordinary story about the death of a talented associate at Freshfields: I quote simply from the opening – because the full story is important and I provide you with the link above (It is also below in Talkback from Legal Week)
Quoted from The Times: “Stressed out lawyer, 27, dies in late night fall at Tate Modern
“As a lawyer at one of the “magic circle” of leading corporate legal firms, Matthew Courtney was expected to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week.
He hoped that his efforts would eventually be rewarded with a partnership – and a £1 million salary.
But weeks after Mr Courtney, 27, and other associate lawyers at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer spoke to senior partners about their long hours and stress, he was found dead at Tate Modern, The Times has learnt.”
The full report is worth reading.
Interestingly – Legal Week asks the question in their Talkback section:
Talkback: Is the national press being too quick to judge Freshfields? Click here to have your say.
An interesting comment on this by Liadnan – well worth reading
The inference that Matthew Courtney may have committed suicide is supported by the vagueness of the article and the link to stress the stress of what is, undoubtedly, a demanding work environment. This quote from The Times article does not really help either: “Police studied security camera footage from Tate Modern but told Mr Courtney’s family that it is inconclusive. A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said that the death was being treated as “unexplained but not suspicious.”
I find it strange that the story is not more clear. The Police, certainly, do not seem to have a firm view – save that they are not treating the death as suspicious.
Legal Week has an interesting follow up: here
It is certainly possible to construe, from the Times article, a suggestion of suicide – but it seems to me, that if one is making such a point, then one should do so clearly. A number of other bloggers, seasoned and experienced lawyers, have drawn this inference from press reports.
Lawyers work long hours. It goes with the territory – but it seems, to me, that press reports may not be giving an entirely fair view of the workloads or the circumstances surrounding the tragedy of this young lawyer’s death.
The posts on Legal Week’s Talkback are fairly robust: One commentator expressing the view that no lawyer should have to work after 6.00 pm for free and that it is time the public ‘ finds out what working as a lawyer is like’. Another comment takes a more measured view (and I have no hesitation in quoting in full) :
“There is no question some grossly irresponsible pieces have been written about the possible cause and tragedy of this young man’s death. It is much too soon to point an accusing finger, the sort of thing we almost (but still reluctantly) come to expect from the gutter tabloids…but not respected newspapers, surely?”
Posted by: Associate, Burges Salmon
The truth of the matter is, given the Police view that the death is ‘unexplained but not suspicious’ (as reported in The Times article of 13/2/07), that no-one knows (a) whether it was an accident or suicide or (b) and, if it was suicide, whether it could be attributed to stress from work.
Unless I am missing something – is this a fair way to report a tragic death?
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