The February death of Dechert associate Cameron Schladenhauffen was an accident caused by a combination of several drugs, a medical examiner has found.
Schladenhauffen died from “acute intoxication by the combined effects of heroin, clonazepam, oxazepam, diazepam, alprazolam, temazepam and codeine,” a spokesperson for the New York Office of Chief Medical Examiner said in an email.
Clonazepam, oxazepam, diazepam, alprazolam and temazepam are all benzodiazepines, a class of prescription drugs that are sometimes prescribed for the treatment of anxiety or depression, as well as some other conditions. Codeine is a prescription pain medication.
According to Schladenhauffen’s family, the medical examiner told them the combination of drugs caused respiratory failure, and that none of the drugs found in his system was enough on its own to have caused his death.
Schladenhauffen, 31, died Feb. 8 at a residence in New York.
His father, Benjamin Schladenhauffen of Niceville, Florida, said in an interview Tuesday that his son had been experiencing acute stress in the year leading up to his death. He said they spoke about three times a week, and he was never aware that his son ever abused drugs.
Schladenhauffen said his son had described receiving assignments from multiple Dechert offices with deadlines that were difficult to meet, sometimes causing him to work through the night. He said his son had told him he pulled two all-nighters in a row to finish his work on one occasion.
“I think that was the darkest point in his life,” his father said of Cameron Schladenhauffen’s final year. He also said, “I’m not blaming anyone” for his son’s death.
A spokesperson for Dechert said in an emailed statement Tuesday, “We continue to grieve for Cameron and our thoughts are with his family during this incredibly difficult time.”
Benjamin Schladenhauffen said his son loved to write, which led to his interest in becoming an attorney. His introduction to the profession was working with a criminal defense attorney in Tallahassee before he entered law school.
After graduating from law school at the University of Virginia in 2015, Cameron Schladenhauffen got a job at Dentons in New York, his father said, and “did well there.”
He pursued a job at Dechert because it was a market leader in associate pay, his father said. According to his LinkedIn profile, Schladenhauffen joined Dechert’s New York office in December 2017.
According to his biography from Dechert’s website, which was taken down soon after his death, Schladenhauffen was an associate in the firm’s commercial real estate finance practice. He represented investment banks and institutional lenders in the origination, syndication, purchase and sale of loans, the biography said.
Outside of his legal career, Schladenhauffen had a love for comedy, his father said.
“He loved making people laugh. That was his whole thing,” he said.
An obituary published in the Northwest Florida Daily News said Schladenhauffen had submitted an application to the NBC network for its “Late Night with Seth Meyers” show writers program not long before his death.
According to information the New York City Police Department provided in February, police responded to a 911 call of an unconscious person inside an apartment on East 17th St. at 6:15 p.m. Feb. 8. Police discovered a 31-year-old male, unconscious on his bed, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said no weapon or visible injuries were found.
Stress and substance abuse in the legal profession have attracted increasing concern in recent years, as law firms face growing evidence that lawyers are disproportionately affected by depression and substance abuse.
Among those whose struggles with drugs became public was a Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati lawyer who died in 2015, and whose ex-wife wrote about his drug addiction and his obsession with work in a 2017 article for The New York Times.
Last year, the American Bar Association launched its Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession. As part of that effort, 90 legal employers so far have signed a pledge to support the campaign and adopt its framework for addressing mental health and substance abuse in the legal profession. Dechert signed the pledge this year.
Dechert’s spokesperson said the firm is “committed to creating a supportive and open culture where we encourage everyone to raise issues about mental health and stress-related problems.” In addition to signing the ABA pledge, the firm said it offers training for employee volunteers from Mental Health First Aid International, through which more than 50 people from Dechert have become mental health advocates so far.
Gina Passarella contributed to this report.