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February 2013 CBA REPORT
balanced Living
I
I
n my more than 35 years of practic-
ing law, the most challenging and
difficult situation I have ever faced
was with my partner, Frank Marnell. It is
a love story with a tragic ending.
Frank came to us as an intern having
graduated from Stanford University,
received a Master’s Degree from the Uni-
versity of Cincinnati in English, and then
had a couple of years of law under his belt
from William and Mary. He reminded us
all of Superman with an extraordinarily
powerful physique and with the Clark
Kent glasses that made him look like a
reporter.
Frank was a very thoughtful, reserved
young man. He did not get terribly ex-
cited about things and was very likable.
When we took him to the Maisonette to
offer him a full time position with us at
the end of his summer job, much to our
surprise, he said “thank you very much,
let me think about it”. We, of course,
thought it was an outstanding offer that
he could not refuse — and eventually we
were right, but it was surprising that he
did not respond immediately.
I always treated Frank like any other
attorney in our firm with respect to a
bottle of wine at Christmas time. At
some point, I learned that his parents
each had alcohol problems and there was
a history of suicide in his family.
Frank was a very eligible bachelor.
Through the marketing of a book I
had written, I met an attractive young
lady, Carol Charles, who worked for
the National Underwriter Company.
So that Frank would have a chance to
get to know her, I brought him into a
meeting that I was having with her. At
the end of the meeting, he said to me,
“What was that all about? Why was I
included?” I said, “Frank, you are single,
she is single, and she is very bright.”
Well, it was good matchmaking in that
Carol and Frank did get married and
had a happy marriage for many years,
having one beautiful daughter. Unfortu-
nately, the marriage did not last, as Frank
encountered demons along the way that
disrupted his relationship.
At some point, we learned that Frank
had a DUI. This was not something that
fell under any special category for treat-
ment or concern — other attorneys had
had DUIs that we knew of, although not
in our office, and it seemed not to be such
an extraordinary event. Other circum-
stances arose where it became clear to us
that Frank had a problem with alcohol.
He joined Alcoholics Anonymous and
had a number of attorneys who were
support people for him. Secretaries
complained, from time to time, that they
thought he had been drinking. We told
him that we had zero tolerance to drink-
ing when we knew that he had a problem.
At one point, we felt that we had to
confront Frank about the drinking issue
and arranged an intervention with Scott
Mote of the Ohio Lawyers Assistance. We
met for breakfast at the Queen City Club.
We each went around the table and told
Frank that we loved him, that we needed
him to take care of this problem, that we
couldn’t tolerate him having any alcohol
when it was a problem for him, and that
we wanted him to meet with Scott Mote
who had traveled from Columbus to
meet with him.
Frank was very persuasive with
Scott and convinced him that he had the
problem under control, was getting psy-
chological help, was regularly attending
AA and did not need to take any time off
from work to go into any type of rehab.
Scott met with Frank on a weekly basis,
as far as we knew and kept in touch with
him.
We continued to have suspicions
about his drinking and bought a breatha-
lyzer to use in the office so that he would
be aware that we were not going to
tolerate any drinking. We never used the
breathalyzer.
On the weekend before Thanksgiving
in 2005, Frank was arrested for a DUI
on a Saturday morning. He was given
a court date of the following Monday,
which he did not keep because he took
his own life before the hearing.
Frank was a very bright, analytical
man. He may very well have added up the
pluses and the minuses of living without
being able to practice law versus having
significant insurance proceeds available
for his former wife, who he still loved
very much, as well as for his daughter,
for whom he always had very significant
affection. Unfortunately, there never was
any opportunity to talk to him about
what motivated him to end the life of
such an outstanding attorney.
As catastrophic as this event was for
me personally and for the firm, I have
come to realize that alcoholism is an
unbelievably serious and difficult ad-
diction to deal with and that Frank was
simply overcome with the demons of a
By Robert W. Buechner
The Life of
Frank Marnell
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