The death by suicide of a high profile litigator in the US has once again highlighted the law profession’s mental health issues faced by the law profession generally.
Philadelphia lawyer Slade McLaughlin, who co-founded McLaughlin & Lauricella and a ‘Super Lawyer’ among other accolades he achieved, had handled claims for sex abuse victims and reportedly shot himself, shocking the legal community both in his hometown and nationally.
McLaughlin, described `by partner PaulLauricella as “a force of nature” was highly regarded for his work, who had reportedly become stressed by the volume of work his firm faced as trials once again resumed.
Among the many cases he handled, McLaughlin had represented plaintiffs suing the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for alleged priest sex abuse and he also acted for plaintiffs suing the Pennsylvania State University for alleged sexual abuse by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
“Slade was the most righteous guy I knew,” Lauricella told Law.com. “He’s the guy you want in the foxhole with you. He was always there to give and always helped other lawyers.”
“I’d have to sit with him and tell him, ‘What are you worried about? Last year, we had our best year ever, and this year, we’re on track to have another great year,’” Lauricella told Law.com.
Lauricella said that McLaughlin may have had trouble seeking the help he needed because he was always solving problems for others.
We have previously reported about mental health issues in the law profession, including noting an American Bar Association Survey that showed that lawyers – in the US at least and the figures in similar Western jurisdictions are unlikely to be much different – are 3.6 times more likely to experience a major depressive episode compared to the general population.
The mental health issue, partly arising from the sort of pressures that may well have been felt by Slade McLaughlin, are common to most jurisdictions.
A UK mental health assessment of the legal profession that we also reported a year ago showed that 39 per cent of trainee lawyers surveys reported suffering from mental health problems, up from 19 per cent the previous year (2017), while mental health issues among more senior member of the legal profession also hit historic highs.