A Lawyer's Life Cut Short

, The Am Law Daily


Ryan Farley dreamed of being an attorney from the time he was 6 years old. In the end, though he reached that goal, his professional ambitions were no match for his personal demons.

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What's being said

  • Herodotus

    Big Firm Partner's empathy is stunning..

  • Big Firm Partner

    So now all the knee jerk comments will pour in the Big Law pressures drive people to the bottle. As a partner in one of the largest firms, do I know partners who drink to excess? Sure. Have we send more than a few associates to alcohol treatment. Yes. But guess what. Look around. Lots of your friends who are stay at home moms drink too much. And lots of cops drink too much. And lots of teachers drink too much. And more people than you'd probably want to know smoke dope every nights and still snort coke regularly. The bottom line is that people everywhere are under a ton of stress and pressure. Whether it's genuine stress or someone's heightened response to a typo on page 48 of a brief in a footnote is really besides the point. Adults reaspnd to stress a lot of ways. Some people watch TV until 3 am. Some people engage in risk sexual activity. Some people run 65 miles a week. And a lot of people drink too much. In every profession. The law business certain attracts a lot of compulsive perfectionists and obviously demans a lot of hours. But to argue that the business drives people to alcoholism is wrong. I always wonder why people making 10, 20, or 100X the national income average are so put upon in their own minds.

  • Max

    This is a sad story that is repeated all too often. I agree with the other comments that say that alcoholism and law practice should not be confused. The clear problem that Ryan Farley had was alcoholism, which is often associated with the personality type that is attracted to the driven, aggressive side of law practice. As a recovering alcoholic trial lawyer who works with other lawyers through our state's lawyer assistance program, I know that the legal profession is shot full of alcoholics, particularly in the litigation practice. I understand that it is a progressive brain disease; my brain and my response to alcohol are physically, psychologically and emotionally different from those who do not have the disease. Help is available, but I had to get to a point where I was willing to ask for help and accept it--I had to become teachable. I do not fault those like Ryan who cannot accept help; they just haven't reached a point in their disease where they know that they can't deal with it themselves, and lawyers are a difficult bunch in that respect. I always mourn when I hear about a colleague that has reached a point where the darkness is so great that they see no way out but suicide, but they are not able to see that they need help nor can they accept the help that is available. Alcoholism is cunning, baffling and powerful and if untreated, it kills. I am grateful to be in recovery, but keeping my disease in remission is a daily task. My heart goes out to Ryan's family, and especially his children and I pray that God may enfold them with His love.

  • Herodotus

    Ryan Farley may have had a drinking problem. Big Law may have made it worse. That his personality quirks created some problems, perhaps - but nothing greater fee origination would not have solved.

    It is a story about personal quirks AND about Big Law. Big Law chews people up and spits them out when they are no longer needed. Need to maintain PEP after all.

    Is Ryan Farley a victim of his demons, yes - and one of those demons may have been Big Law.

    My heart goes out to his children.

  • David

    Sincere condolences to Mr. Farley's family and friends.
    I sure hope no one ever decides to author an article on my life-as-tragedy and then uses my resume as their outline. Brutal approach.

  • joseph dreitler

    A horrible, hideous story. It is sadly, similar to that of a colleague about the same age who came back to Ohio last year after stints at large NY corporate shops. His life ended this Summer. But tell me what large firm does not operate this way--- "Mayer Brown's New York team was still struggling to establish itself within a firm whose eat-what-you-kill business model encouraged offices to hoard work and compete against one another." Law firms are not partnerships, they are corporations with a few large shareholders and many tiny shareholders with no say in anything of the company

  • not available

    Addiction is a chronic, progressive brain disease. It's treatable. Perhaps not as successfully as one might like, but on a par with other chronic diseases that require substantial behavioral change, like diabetes and hypertension.

    Unfortunately, many people still don't believe addiction is a disease. That's why science-based education is so important.

    For a not-for-profit website that discusses the science of substance use and abuse in accessible English (how alcohol and drugs work in the brain; how addiction develops; why addiction is a chronic, progressive brain disease; what parts of the brain malfunction as a result of substance abuse; how that malfunction skews decision-making and motivation, resulting in addict behaviors; why some get addicted while others don't; how treatment works; how well treatment works; why relapse is common; what family and friends can do; etc.) please click on www.AddictScience.com.

  • K.C. Victor

    While my heart breaks for all those who loved and love Ryan Farley, his is a story of alcoholism and not Big Law. It would be best not to confuse the two.

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