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John Alexander Mendoza was struggling as a lawyer.
For years, clients had complained about his workers' compensation practice. He joined a bigger firm, but eventually the partners decided to fire him.
That was before the holiday party, when Mendoza walked into the office and murdered a managing partner before killing himself.
Major Langer, who helped build Perona, Langer, Beck, Serbin and Harrison, was a well-known trial attorney. He handled what is believed to be the longest civil trial in California history, a 14-month trial that ended in a successful jury verdict.
Mendoza killed Langer and wounded another partner, Ronald Beck, in the Long Beach shooting. Beck survived injuries to his torso and leg.
Responding to an emergency call, police found the deceased lawyers and a weapon at the scene. Beck had already been transported to a hospital, where he was listed in stable condition after surgery.
Investigators have not announced a motive for the attack, but described it as workplace violence. Studies suggest there is more to it when people attack lawyers.
Stephen Kelsey, a Utah lawyer, has studied violence against attorneys for two decades. He has done surveys in 25 states.
"If you go out and look, there really is no method to determine the rate of violence against attorneys," he told the ABA Journal. "It happens, but it rarely gets recorded unless there's something that really catches the media's attention."
However, Kelsey said it happens most often to lawyers who practice criminal law or family law. He said clients feel substantial loss, and they look for someone to blame.
In Mendoza's case, he apparently blamed his law partners.
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