October 26, 2020

If Accounting Firms Are Going to Insist That People Work So Much, They Should at Least Educate Them on How to Recognize When Someone Is About to Keel Over

Earlier this week, our friend Elie Mystal wrote a sad post about a young attorney who died at 35 under suspicious circumstances. Adam Maynard was gunning for partner at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP and was working very hard right up to the time he died. How hard was he working, you ask?

Friends of Maynard and tipsters at Dinsmore claim there is more to the story. We don’t know why Maynard passed away, but his friends say he was working hard before the end — very hard. Friends and colleagues tell us that Maynard had been billing over 20 hours a day for multiple days in a row. Those days came as a crescendo of a “month of nonstop billing,” according to a friend.

This, and the fact that we're in the throes of busy season, reminded me of the story we discovered last year about a young PwC auditor in Shanghai who also died suddenly in the midst of a marathon of long days and nights on the job. In both cases, employers of the deceased deny (PwC publicly, Dinsmore internally) that the hours being worked were the cause of their employees' deaths but it's not a stretch at all to say that it could be a catalyst of their deaths. 

Yes, these tragedies are rare, but it strikes me as sensible that accounting and law firms would do well to actively and sincerely encourage their employees to take care of themselves when they are working themselves into the ground. The culture in these firms simply will not allow people to stop working 18-hour days, so firms should at least educate their people about how to recognize when someone is pushing himself or herself too hard. God knows these firms waste money and time on things that produce no value whatsoever, so why not throw money and resources at a real problem?

I'm not suggesting that everyone start taking night classes at medical school or even be CPR certified (although that's not a bad idea) but educating people on some basic physical signs of severe exhaustion and extreme stress DEFINITELY wouldn't kill anyone. Once people have an idea of what some symptoms of a poorly nutritioned, severely fatigued, mind-bendingly stressed out capital market servants are, then they can say, "Christ, Dave, you're not looking so hot. You feel okay?" or "Ashley, you've kinda been working a lot. No, like a lot, a lot. You should really take a break if you need to." Of course it also helps if people actually say something to the person who looks as though the bucket punt could come at time. 

Until that happens, keep an eye out for each other. Let's shoot for a body count of zero this year.

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