Personal Lives

Homeless man was once a BigLaw lawyer and the chief justice's Harvard Law classmate

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Alfred Postell is a 1979 Harvard law graduate who once worked at accounting firm Lucas and Tucker and the BigLaw firm then known as Shaw Pittman Potts & Trowbridge. He has degrees in economics and accounting. His Harvard law classmates included Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and former Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

Postell is also a diagnosed schizophrenic and homeless, the Washington Post reports. He carries his belongings in white plastic bags and, when he expresses his thoughts, it is “like dive-bombing into a dream,” according to the Washington Post. “Everything at first sounds normal. But things quickly fall into disorder. The chronology hiccups. Incongruous thoughts collide.”

Though Postell lives on the streets, he is getting some help from a mental health team at the Green Door and from Pathways to Housing, a group that helps the homeless.

His life began to unravel after working at Shaw Pittman. The firm fired him a few years after he began working there. His mother, Ruth Priest, tells the Washington Post that a darkness fell over her son and he kept talking about the police being after him. He had a bad breakup with his girlfriend. Then he had a psychotic break.

“You get into a firm, it’s prestigious,” Postell tells the Post. “And when you lose that position, it’s like suicide. It’s all over. It’s atrophy. Or as accountants say, it’s to be obsolete. You know what that means? Obsolescence. Beyond your useful life. I was beyond my useful life.”

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