Stories of Attorneys Literally Working Themselves to Death: Is These Such a Thing as Work-Life Balance for Attorneys?

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Summary: Don't let the practice of law take your life. Learn what karoshi means and how you can avoid it.
Stories of Attorneys Literally Working Themselves to Death: Is These Such a Thing as Work-Life Balance for Attorneys?

In 2011, Redondo Beach native and attorney, Lisa Marie Johnstone passed away from a heart attack. She was 32 years old.

Lisa was an associate with Skadden, a large Downtown Los Angeles law firm. Fellow associates remember Lisa as a driven attorney who at the time of her death, was billing upwards of 100 hours a week. In fact, at the time of her death, which was a Sunday afternoon, Lisa was in her home office, whereas many in the Biglaw world will imagine, she was working.

In a sense, Lisa worked herself to death. Her colleagues recount distressing signs that Lisa was falling into the abyss of being overworked; she was experiencing hair loss as well as taking “stimulants” to help her stay on the case she worked on, let alone stay awake.

Of course, the news was alarming, and not just to Skadden employees, but throughout law firms nationwide. It was not the first time an associate worked him or herself into an extremely dangerous, if not morbidly dire situation. Lisa’s death had some associates in hers and other law firms questioning the worth of their work versus their life. Other associates, well, they just kept on working.

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