Issues affecting the legal community such as substance abuse, depression, and suicide have recently been in the spotlight. One might think it troubling how frequently these issues make the news and find their way into journals, as it reflects how widespread the problems really are. Indeed, there is cause for concern, but shining a light on these topics encourages people to speak up their own struggles and seek help, uncovers the need for overdue rule changes, and inspires new and improved programs for rehabilitation. The recent articles below, as well as other posts on this blog, are just some examples of how members of the legal community are sharing their stories, and how bar associations and lawyer assistance programs (LAPs) are shining a light on the issues and offering assistance.

Life After Meth: A Journey of Addiction and Recovery, by Douglas Wilson (NW Lawyer, a publication of the Washington State Bar Association, Vol. 68, No. 4, Jun 2014, cover story)

Through the Open Door: A Bipolar Attorney Talks Mania, Recovery and Heaven on Earth, by Hilary Martin Chaney (The Arkansas Lawyer, a publication of the Arkansas Bar Association, Vol. 49, No. 2, Spring 2014, pg. 42)

All Stressed Out and Nowhere to Go, by Vicki Olds (The Advocate, a publication of the Idaho State Bar, May 2014, Vol. 57, No. 5, pg. 38)

Lawyers and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, by Tish Vincent (Michigan Bar Journal, a publication of the State Bar of Michigan, June 2014, pg. 58)

Law students seeking admission to the North Dakota Bar now have less to worry about if they have been treated for mental health or substance abuse problems in the past. On July 1st, the Supreme Court of North Dakota adopted amendments to North Dakota Supreme Court Admission to Practice Rule 2, Standards for Admission, adding the following section:

“Seeking counsel from the State Bar Association of North Dakota Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) for mental health or substance abuse problems that might affect law practice administration or compromise professional competence may not be considered adversely by the Board in its evaluation. If the applicant chooses to participate in a program designed for the applicant by LAP and successfully completes that program by the time of graduation, the evidence of such rehabilitation and recovery may be considered favorably by the Board when evaluating the applicant’s character and fitness. The applicant’s failure to complete a treatment program may be considered adversely by the Board.”

The North Dakota Lawyer Assistance Committee (LAP) had proposed the change back in November of 2013, along with a proposal to change North Dakota Supreme Court Administrative Rule 49 to extend LAP services and confidentiality to students attending the University of North Dakota School of Law. The amendments to Rule 49 were adopted April 30, 2014, effective June 1, 2014; the amendments to Rule 2 will be effective October 1, 2014.

For more information, click here.

2014 CoLAP Conf  Reg  Brochure (2)_Page_1

The 2014 Conference is being held in Nashville, Tennessee starting Tuesday, October 7 until Friday, October 10, 2014. This year’s conference theme is “Getting in Tune – Lawyers Helping Lawyers in Music City.” The conference will have sessions of interest to judges, disciplinary staff, bar leaders, lawyer assistance program directors and staff, law school administrators and law firm managers, as well as abundant opportunities to network with LAP personnel and volunteers involved in lawyer assistance programs from across the U.S. and Canada.

Conference programming will include such varied sessions/topics as: “Treatment and Recovery Enhancement for Sustained Recovery,” “The Roadmap to Wellness: Incorporating Attachment Theory and the Trauma Model in the Recovery/Discovery Process,” “Find Your People,” “What’s New in Drug and Alcohol Testing: New Markers and Devices for Monitoring Participants,” “Judicial Roundtables – Building Community Among Judges,” “Founders Presentation,” “The Health of Today’s Law Students: Reporting Results of a National Survey on Well-Being of Law Students and Discussing Next Steps,” “Pragmatism or Saving a Life…How about Both,” “Living Well – One Day at a Time.”

In addition, the Conference features an Exhibit Hall of facilities from around the US and Canada that focus on treating drug abuse, addictions, mood disorders, eating disorders, etc. This is a wonderful opportunity to discover new facilities and interact face to face with the facilities you use currently.

For more information, including registration, exhibitor registration, the schedule, hotel accommodations, speakers and travel information, click here.

Visit CoLAP Nashville’s Facebook page here.

LAPs in the News

Wyoming Lawyer Assistance Program (WYLAP):
In a segment called “Wyoming Program Assists Lawyers With Alcohol Abuse, Depression,” on the recent launch of the Wyoming Lawyer Assistance Program, KCWY13 News interviews WYLAP Board Member John Masterson, and Casper, WY attorney Dallas Laird. In the video, the two offer insight on why the legal community especially needs the program – citing the Wyoming State Bar Life Satisfaction Survey which found that over 60 percent of Wyoming lawyers experience unhealthy amounts of stress – and explain that WYLAP is a safe and stigma-free place for struggling attorneys to proactively seek help.

Watch the video here.

Kentucky Lawyer Assistance Program (KYLAP):
KYLAP was recently featured in the Business Lexington article, “Trend in Lawyer Suicides Leads to Action in Legal Community,” which includes quotes from Yvette Hourigan, executive director of KYLAP, and John Meyers, executive director of the Kentucky Bar Association (KBA). Concerned with the high rates of lawyer depression and suicide in Kentucky, the KBA and KYLAP have “stepped up to curb the alarming trend.” Hourigan and Meyers explain the unique pressures lawyers face, how the job market and student loan debt contribute to the problem, and how KYLAP and the KBA are addressing the issue through programming and outreach.

Read the article here.

According to University of Denver law professor Debra Austin, it’s not just anxiety, panic attacks, depression, substance abuse and suicide that law students need to worry about as possible side effects of too much stress, (as if those aren’t enough), it’s also the weakening or even death of brain cells. In her recent Loyola Law Review article, Austin explains how high levels of stress – the exact kind law students experience – can actually diminish cognitive capacity. She offers neurobiological reasons why programs such as onsite gyms, stress management classes and mindfulness training work to improve student and employee performance, and aims to educate students, faculty and lawyers on how to be proactive in mitigating stress-related damage.

Read the ABA Journal coverage here.
Read the Loyola Law Review article here.

Have your doctor write you a prescription…for sunshine and relaxation.

The ABA Legal Technology Resource Center (LTRC) is inviting you to join them for a free webinar they’re calling, “How to Vacation as a Lawyer,” and asking you to consider your health when deciding whether or not you have time to take that much-needed, and of course, well-deserved vacation. Time away is said to decrease stress, and ultimately leave you more refreshed and better able to perform at work upon your return. These benefits are particularly important to the legal community which has been proven to suffer higher than normal rates of depression.

Participants will learn tips on preparing for, scheduling, and maximizing vacation time this summer, as well as discover how to:
• Understand the importance of vacation;
• Pick tools to support your absence;
• Pull in outside help; and
• Enjoy yourself!

Register for the Webinar here, which will take place Thursday, June 26 from 2:00pm – 2:30pm ET.

Congratulations to Tracy Kepler (USPTO), Mistie Bauscher (Bauscher Law Office-ID), Terry Harrell (CoLAP-IN), Don Lundberg (APRL-IN) and Ed Novak (Polsinelli-AZ) for their well-received presentation at the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility Conference in Long Beach last week. An article recognizing their work is in the ABA BNA Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct. If you have an online subscription, you can read the article here.

The conference report on the presentation is titled, “Many States Embrace Conditional Admission But Panelists Point Out Difficulties in Process.” Generally, conditional admission grants applicants who have a history of chemical dependence or mental illness a license to practice law, but with a period of oversight until they demonstrate successful rehabilitation or treatment. The speakers addressed a variety of issues on the subject of conditional admission, including:

• The three sets of interests that conditional admission tries to balance;
• A description of what it’s like to be conditionally admitted – the everyday rules and requirements – featuring the candid perspective of Ms. Bauscher, who was conditionally admitted in Idaho;
• The debate over whether conditional admission is akin to making a reasonable accommodation or whether it merely burdens people who have already demonstrated their fitness, thereby violating the Americans with Disabilities Act;
• The “huge imbalance of power” in the bar application process and the “powerlessness of the unrepresented applicant”;
• The role of a lawyer assistance program (LAP) in the conditional admission process; and
• The question of confidentiality – whether the conditionally admitted are obligated to notify their clients.


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