Bruce Wickersham, a partner in DLA Piper’s Boston office, was found dead late last month in what authorities called an apparent suicide.
Wickersham’s body was discovered on Monday, Aug. 27 around 6:45 p.m., submerged near two boats at the Moby Dick Marina in Fairhaven, a town in Bristol County on the southern coast of Massachusetts.
The Bristol County District Attorney’s Office later determined that his death was the result of an apparent suicide, but no further details were released. The DA’s office did not provide any updates on Friday.
An avid boater and fisherman, Wickersham lived in the Boston suburb of Dedham for the last 18 years. Though he was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania, Wickersham, 54, was a longtime Boston attorney.
A 1996 graduate of Boston College Law School, Wickersham was a part of the original group of lawyers to leave the now-defunct old-line Boston firm Hill and Barlow to join Chicago-based Piper Rudnick as it set up shop in the city in 2003, ahead of its merger with DLA in 2005.
As a partner at DLA Piper, Wickersham worked with institutional investors, real estate private equity funds and sponsors and real estate investment advisers in transactions with a specific focus on joint ventures.
“Bruce was a valued member of DLA Piper and his passing was a tremendous loss for the firm, the Boston office and the real estate practice,” said John Rattigan, managing partner of the firm’s Boston office, in a statement.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Bruce’s family and his many friends during this difficult time,” Rattigan said.
Funeral services for Wickersham were held earlier this month. His family requested donations be made to The Samaritans on Cape Cod and the Islands, a suicide prevention organization.
Lawyers have one of the highest suicide rates across all professions in the U.S.
William Graham, ex-Williams & Connolly lawyer and son of former Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, died in late December from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. After taking hostages and a 10-hour standoff with police, a federal administrative judge in Miami-Dade, Timothy Maher, took his own life last month.
A 2018 ALM Survey on Mental Health and Substance Abuse found that over 86 percent of law firm leaders said that depression occurred in their firms, and over 93 percent said the same for anxiety.
Given the grim statistics, law firms have increasingly begun implementing wellness programs to prioritize their attorneys’ mental health and well-being. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, for example, added an on-site behavioral assistance counselor to its Washington, D.C., headquarters earlier this year.
At an American Bar Association conference in Washington in April, then-ABA President Hilarie Bass said the suicide of South Florida litigator Ervin Gonzalez in June 2017 had driven home the profession’s need to grapple with mental health issues.
This month the organization launched a pledge campaign to encourage more law firms to confront attorney well-being.