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.
He had gone alone to the art gallery after work on Friday and died instantly after plunging from a stairwell leading to the seventh-floor restaurant at 11.30pm.
The death of the Oxford-educated lawyer, the only child of the World Cup football referee George Courtney, has highlighted concerns about the stress suffered by City workers as bonuses reach record highs.
His father told The Times: “We talked to Matthew 24 hours before his death and he said he was working long hours but there was nothing there to suspect anything untoward.
“We have spoken to Matthew’s line manager today, and there might have been an issue with his workload. They had recently taken some of that workload off him. Freshfields were very happy with the quality of his work.”
Mr Courtney, of Pimlico, Central London, had been one of only 100 trainee lawyers selected each year to join Freshfields. He qualified last August and was appointed an associate specialising in intellectual property rights at its Fleet Street offices.
As a £55,000-a-year junior, he would frequently have been called on to work 16-hour days, seven days a week, for weeks on end to keep up with the firm’s relentless flow of multi-billion-pound deals. Junior staff at Freshfields, which employs 2,400 lawyers worldwide, tend to put in this level of work – for up to eight years before they are eligible for partnership and some of the best financial rewards in the City.