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Business-Building Struggles for Lawyer Who Died in Apparent Suicide

Posted May 4, 2009 6:17 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Washington, D.C., lawyer who apparently killed himself after reportedly being laid off is being described as a brilliant practitioner who may have struggled with the business aspects of private law practice.

Mark Levy, a 59-year-old Yale Law School graduate who headed Kilpatrick Stockton’s Supreme Court and appellate advocacy practice, had previously worked at three law firms: Covington & Burling, Mayer Brown and Howrey. Friends and colleagues tell the National Law Journal that the lateral moves may be evidence that he was having trouble building a book of business.

John Briggs, who worked with Levy at Howrey, told the legal newspaper that Levy had some difficulty establishing a practice there. "He wasn't getting as much work as he wanted to get, and he left because he felt he would be more appreciated, and get more work, at Kilpatrick," Briggs told the NLJ.

Briggs says Levy was a "hardworking and brilliant" lawyer who often got to work before dawn. He won a Supreme Court case last October, but before that, the last time he argued a high court case was in 1989, the story says.

Levy previously was a lawyer in the solicitor general’s office of the Justice Department and had been considered for solicitor general, a position he wanted, but “he never quite made it," according to E. Donald Elliott, a friend who is a partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher. Levy was also deputy assistant attorney general for appellate matters in the Justice Department's civil division.

"I think he put himself under more pressure than perhaps others put themselves under," Briggs says. "This is a man of enormous background, talent and ability."

Another friend who asked to remain anonymous told the NLJ that a government job might have been a better fit. “The sort of rough-and-tumble world of private practice may not have been the right thing for him," the friend said.

Note: The ABA is sponsoring a continuing legal education program on lawyer suicide prevention on May 6. The title of the program is "What Lawyers Need to Know About Suicide During a Recession: Prevention, Identity and Law Firm Responsibility."

The ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs lists local assistance programs that can help troubled lawyers.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Reportedly Laid-Off Lawyer is an Apparent Suicide at Kilpatrick Stockton"

ABAJournal.com: "Lawyer Personalities May Contribute to Increased Suicide Risk"

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