As it turned out, losing a champion like Orr was a serious setback for Farley. As The American Lawyer reported at the time, Mayer Brown's New York team was still struggling to establish itself within a firm whose eat-what-you-kill business model encouraged offices to hoard work and compete against one another. The 210-lawyer New York office which Mayer Brown had been trying to expand for yearssuffered at least eight significant partner losses in 2006, including those of Orr and his fellow defectors to Morrison & Foerster. With the office in flux and no strong advocate left to vouch for him, Farley was passed over for partner, says Joyce Farley, whose divorce from her husband became final in August.
It was, according to Diana, a devastating turn of events for Farley: "He was so well-respected and had done so well hereit was a big hit."
An alcohol-fueled fall
Even in his early days at Mayer Brown, colleagues say Farley was known to down several martinis at a typical work outing. "We tried to do what we could to help him," says Orr, including scheduling meet-ups at places other than bars to avoid potential problems. "It would be a lie for anyone to say they didn't see issues there."
Those issues were compounded by Farley's unhappiness over how his Mayer Brown tenure ended. "I don't think the drinking had affected him up to that point," says Joyce Farley. "But after the blow of not making partner, that's when things started cascading."
Nonetheless, Farley pressed on. After leaving Mayer Brown, he joined 561-lawyer Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney's modest New York office in a counsel role. "He was a very smart guy," says Constance Huttner, a Vinson & Elkins partner who struck up a friendship with Farley at Buchanan. "He wrote well, spoke well." At the same time, Huttner says, his personality quirks were easy to spot. "He was not the world's most patient guy."
Joyce Farley says her ex-husband wasn't happy at Buchanan, in part, because "he wasn't sure he'd make partner." About two years after joining the firm, he lateraled again, this time joining the New York office of 610-lawyer Baker & Hostetler. It was a move Joyce Farley says he was excited to make. He was assigned to the team representing Baker & Hostetler partner Irving Picard in his role as the trustee liquidating the bankrupt estate of convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff's investment firm. Court records show that between February 2010 and January 2011, Farley racked up 1,400 hours in Madoff-related work at an hourly rate of $650.
But whatever professional success Farley was having only seemed to fuel his personal demons. "He was riding high on cloud nine," Joyce Farley says, "but that made him drink even more." His problems came to a head in early 2011, when Baker & Hostetler terminated him for reasons Joyce Farley describes as behavior-related. The firm declined to comment except to say through a spokeswoman that Baker & Hostetler was saddened to hear of Ryan's death. "Our thoughts are with his family at this time," the spokeswoman said in a statement.
One strike and out
Farley made his first attempt at rehabilitation after being fired. "I pushed him into the first treatment," Joyce Farley says. After leaving rehab, things began to look up when 340-lawyer LeClairRyan hired him as a shareholder in New York amid the firm's efforts to expand its presence there. LeClair was effusive in its June 27, 2011, press release heralding Farley's arrival, touting his "client-focused mindset and can-do attitude," his "varied yet deep" range of litigation experience, and his "extensive knowledge of administrative bodies and how to navigate their nuances."
The good feelings didn't last long. "That's when he really fell off the cliff," says Joyce Farley. "I think he'd beaten himself down enough that he wasn't feeling so optimistic about his future anymore and the drinking was just interfering more and more." (Huttner recalls reaching Farley in his office and sensing he was drunk.)
LeClair gave him an ultimatum: Seek treatment again or leave the firm. He opted for treatment, but broke the firm's "one strike and you're out" rule almost as soon as he was back at work. Less than a year after hiring him, the firm fired Farley on May 1, 2012, about five days after he returned from rehab, his ex-wife says. (Repeated attempts to reach several LeClair partners for comment on Farley's tenure at the firm yielded only a response from the firm's chief legal officer, Bruce Matson, who said in an email, "I would hope that you appreciate that, like most employers, the Firm does not comment on any personnel matters.")