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Jury to Decide Whether Antidepressant Led to Lawyer's Suicide

By William Vogeler, Esq. on March 23, 2017 12:05 PM

Stewart Dolin, a senior attorney at a large law firm, stood at the train station and contemplated his life. Then he jumped in front of the train.

His story of suicide, apparently induced by depression and being demoted at work, haunts many lawyers. Studies say that an alarming number of attorneys -- 28 percent -- are depressed. The legal industry ranks 11th in suicide rates by profession.

So what made Dolin take that last, irreversible step in his battle with depression? That's the question in a trial pending in a Chicago courtroom.

Suicidal Effects of Prescription Drugs

Wendy Dolin, the widow, claims that a pharmaceutical company is to blame. GlaxoSmithKline, which makes the antidepressant Paxil, covered up the suicidal effects of the drug. Dolin started taking a generic form of the drug a week before he died.

David Healy, a professor of psychiatry and international expert on antidepressants, testified that Paxil increases suicidal behavior in adults. It was key testimony because, as Healy revealed in other cases, the company had distorted studies about the drug's suicidal effects.

Dolin had struggled with depression for years, but his widow said he became more anxious and depressed after he started taking the drug. Days before the suicide, she said, he had trouble sleeping and expressed "extreme thoughts."

The defense contends that Dolin took his life because of problems at work, dating back several years when his mid-sized firm merged with the international firm Reed Smith. The law firm is not a defendant, but it produced disheartening evidence about its former partner in the case.

Stress and Depresssion at Biglaw

Dolin, a graduate of Loyola University Chicago Law School, was head of the firm's corporate and securities work in the United States. He was feeling the pressure, according to his therapist's notes, because he wasn't a Harvard or Yale grad and he "wasn't an international lawyer."

Apparently, the firm was losing confidence in him as well. In 2009, he received some bad reviews.

"Middle-market lawyer from middle-market firm (leading) global C & S group? Enough said," one critique read, according to court documents. Another stated: "Plays favorites. Arrogant. Nonresponsive. Deceitful. That enough?"

In May 2010, the firm appointed another partner to co-chair the practice area with Dolin. The partners also cut back Dolin's salary.

He ended it all two months later, July 15, 2010. The firm established an award in his name for excellence in client services.

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