JUST RELEASED! The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change


“A coalition of groups, including the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, released today a comprehensive report, The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change, aimed at addressing the problem of substance use and mental health disorders of lawyers.”

Read the full ABA Press Release,Growing concern over well-being of lawyers leads to comprehensive new recommendations.”

The report is a product of the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, assembled in August 2016 to “create a movement towards improving the health and well-being of the legal profession.” Its participating entities include: ABA CoLAP; ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism; ABA Center for Professional Responsibility; ABA Young Lawyers Division; ABA Law Practice Division Attorney Wellbeing Committee; The National Organization of Bar Counsel; Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers; National Conference of Chief Justices; and National Conference of Bar Examiners.

The report’s recommendations focus on five central themes: (1) identifying stakeholders and the role each of us can play in reducing the level of toxicity in our profession, (2) eliminating the stigma associated with help-seeking behaviors, (3) emphasizing that well-being is an indispensable part of a lawyer’s duty of competence, (4) educating lawyers, judges, and law students on lawyer well-being issues, and (5) taking small, incremental steps to change how law is practiced and how lawyers are regulated to instill greater well-being in the profession.

The report provides recommendations – along with state action plans with simple checklists – to multiple legal stakeholders, including legal employers, regulators, the judiciary, law schools, professional liability carriers and bar associations.

The Path to Lawyer Well-Being Cover Image

Recognizing Rick Allan, Nebraska Lawyers Assistance Program

Rick Allan, who served as the director of the Nebraska Lawyers Assistance Program (NLAP) since it first formed in 1996, retired from his position this summer. NLAP “offers help to all licensed lawyers, judges and law students troubled by substance abuse problems, cognitive decline, stress, depression and other types of disorders which may impair their ability to perform in a competent and professional manner.” Rick’s legacy is celebrated throughout the state and throughout the national LAP community.

From, “Saying Goodbye to an NLAP Institution,” in the Nebraska State Bar Association publication, The Nebraska Lawyer:

“After 21 years as the Nebraska Lawyers Assistance Program’s Director, serving more than 2000 impaired Nebraska lawyers and being on-call 24/7 for lawyers in need of immediate assistance, Rick Allan is finally taking some time for himself. Rick, who has been the Director of NLAP since its inception in 1996, is retiring from his position this summer.” Read full article.

From, “The NLAP Legacy,” written by Hon. Joseph F. Bataillon, President of the Nebraska State Bar Association:

“He made NLAP one of the finest lawyers’ assistance programs in the country. He recruited a core cadre of lawyers who assist our impaired sisters and brothers, their families, clients, the courts and the public. He expanded NLAP to provide assistance to lawyers facing any type of issue that impairs their ability to practice, including cognitive decline, stress, depression, and more.” Read full article.

Learn about what led Rick to his involvement with NLAP, as well as about problem drinking by lawyers in general, in the Omaha World-Herald article, “Kelly: Alcoholism among lawyers is ‘a lot more serious than people understand.’”

The Passing of David Brink, Former ABA President and Lawyer Assistance Advocate

Former ABA President David Brink has passed away at 97. By all accounts, Brink was a leader in and outside the legal profession. Brink served as president of the ABA in 1981-1982, president of the Minnesota State Bar Association in 1978-79, and president of the Hennepin County Bar Association in 1967-68. He was a trusts and estates lawyer for Dorsey and Whitney for more than 40 years. During WWII, Brink worked as a code breaker for the U.S. Navy. He was a longtime poet and writing teacher.

Brink is also recognized and remembered for his advocacy on behalf of lawyer assistance programs and members of the legal community facing substance use and mental health issues. He helped create the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, served on its Advisory Committee and served as a board member of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers (LCL) in Minnesota.

John W. Clark, Jr., a former chair of CoLAP, shared the following statement about Brink’s passing:

“The recovery community, especially CoLAP, has lost one of its own, a leader in our community and a leader in the world around us. I knew David “then” and “now.” It should be no secret that David opened a lot of doors for CoLAP…doors within the ABA and doors directly linked to our lives. As President of the ABA, David led our profession into a generation of immense change. As a member of CoLAP, he allowed our profession to witness recovery, demonstrating both eloquence and good humor. David was human, but David was blessed. He will be missed by many who never knew him.”

Learn more about David Brink’s life and achievements in:

Statement of ABA President Linda A. Klein Re: The passing of former ABA president David Brink (ABA News)

Minnesota Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Tribute

Former ABA president and WWII veteran David Brink dies at 97 (ABA Journal)

Past ABA president, Dorsey partner David Brink dies (Minnesota Lawyer, submitted by the Dorsey law firm)

2017 National Conference for Lawyer Assistance Programs

Creating a Culture of Compassion and Competence –
Lawyers Helping Lawyers in Kansas City

October 17-19, 2017


The 2017 Conference is being held at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri. The Conference will begin late in the afternoon on Tuesday, October 17th with a Welcome Reception/Exhibit Hall Opening and conclude Thursday evening, October 19th with the Annual Conference Dinner.

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.

In addition, the Conference features an Exhibit Hall of facilities from around the U.S. and Canada that focus on treating substance use disorders, 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, schedule, speakers, hotel accommodations and travel information, click here.

Register today to guarantee the early-bird rate.



To Law Students Preparing for the Bar Exam…

The lawyer assistance programs (LAPs) have pulled together some tips, words of encouragement and resources for you during this stressful time.

In case you don’t already know, LAPs provide confidential services and support to law students, lawyers and judges who are facing substance use or mental health issues.

If you or someone you know needs assistance, contact your state or local LAP.

Dear Law School Graduate and Bar Examination Taker:

In the week before the bar exam, you need to accept that “the hay is in the barn.”  (We like using any phrase or euphemism related to horses or farming, here in Kentucky).  What that means is that you’ve (hopefully) done the hard work, you’ve studied, you’ve treated it like your job this summer, and the hardest part is done – it’s time to perform.  At this point, it’s going to be difficult to memorize much more, so now is the time to focus on practice tests and the art of taking the test, the actual process, and your pace.  Spend your time wisely – not cramming in more random facts you probably won’t recall anyway.

It’s so important that you breathe!  Don’t forget to breathe!  Take the time to meditate (using one of the many free apps you can download), so you can clear your head which will allow your thoughts to become better organized.  This will serve you well in the week leading up to the bar exam.  Start each morning meditating, allowing your brain to be calmed and soothed.  Even if you’ve never meditated before, start now!  What have you got to lose?  It’s just a few minutes of your time and you’ll just be worrying about studying, anyway!  Not only will this help in the week before the bar, studies show that people who meditate make better complex decisions.  Just what you need to answer the complex bar exam questions!  So when you’re taking the exam, and you read that question that seems to be a trusts and estates question, or wait, is it a dissolution question? – stop, breathe, and think!  Allow yourself just a minute to breathe in deep, clear your mind, and breathe out.  Re-read the question, and do what you are well trained to do at this point – apply the law!  Do this anytime you hit a panic-point during the exam.

If you’re like most law students, you’re pretty well-prepared at this point.  On the day before the exam, relax.  It’s not the time to hit the other bar – just relax and do something enjoyable.  See a movie, eat a good meal, and understand that a few more hours of study aren’t going to change much.  You’ve prepared for the marathon, and you’re as ready as you are right here, right now.

And finally, dear exam taker, if you don’t pass the exam, remember that it’s not the end of your world.  We promise.  It just feels that way.  But it won’t feel that way forever.  Lots have taken, lots have not passed, and lots have re-taken.  They’ve become amazing lawyers and judges (yes, I said judges), and had fantastic careers.  Your test score won’t matter forever.  The great news (??) is that you can take it again.

If the stress is overwhelming and you feel you are at the end of your rope, call your LAP program in your state.  We’ll meet with you, have a cup of coffee (probably your 17th of the day), and try to help you through the rough patch.  If more professional help is needed, we’ll guide you to that help.  And if you need help after the exam, we have that covered, too.  We’ll guide you where you need to go, and remind you that many, many other students, lawyers and judges have been exactly where you are, and there’s a way to walk through it (relatively) unscathed.  We’re here to help you however we can.  We want you to succeed!  We’ve got your back.

Good luck!  Or as we say in Kentucky, “a good horse makes his own luck.”

Yvette Hourigan, JD, CEAP
Director, Kentucky Lawyer Assistance Program (KyLAP)

Staying Sane While Studying for Exams

1) Lighten up, smile and relax: The stress associated with law school exams drives many students into unnecessary depression and anxiety. Be sure to integrate fun and laughter while you are studying. The brain operates quicker and more efficiently when we are in a good mood. While your exams are important, if you take them too seriously, you could do yourself long-lasting harm from high levels of stress.

2) Organize your environment: Where will you be studying? Make sure that space is conducive for studying. Is your chair comfortable? Do you have enough light? Have you cleared out distractions? Do you study better with or without music?

3) Set your schedule: Fit in breaks and “time to goof off.” Be sure to plan at least 10 to 15 minutes of relaxation, fun, or planned distraction after every 50 minute period of studying.

4) Pick one task at a time: Your brain operates at its optimum level when you are focusing on one task at a time. If you check your email or search the internet, it could take you several minutes to get back to the task at hand. Save distractions for your designated breaks!

5) Get the food ready: Plan your diet before you start your study period. Your brain and your body need nutritious foods to aid your concentration and memory. Too much sugar, caffeine, and other stimulants will not help your endeavor in the long run; be sure to keep those to a sensible minimum while studying.

6) Drink water and Get sleep: During studying or “cramming” sessions, we can forget to take care of our bodies. Your brain needs hydration to work properly; be sure to help it out by drinking at least a glass of water every hour while studying. In addition, it is necessary to sleep for at least 6-8 hours a night in order for your brain to function properly. Research shows that the amount of sleep the night before an exam is a predictor of success.

7) When the exam is done, LET IT GO: The actual exam is going to go by fast. It’s amazing how quickly 3 or 4 hours can pass when you are focused. However, you still have more to go; so, once the exam is finished, don’t spend time comparing your answers with your colleagues or worrying that other students did better than you. Do not put unnecessary pressure on yourself! Keep your spirits high and move on to the next batch of material you need to study. It will be over before you know it!

Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program (COLAP) 

If during your exam preparation you find yourself becoming overwrought/ overwhelmed/overloaded, take a minute (HALT) and think about whether you are also experiencing hunger, anger, loneliness, or tiredness.  If so, you have permission to attend to your self-care and try to remediate the negative feelings.  Taking a break, accepting your feelings and needs, and attending to self-care will likely make you more productive overall.  Powering through it is not the answer.

Mary Spranger, LCSW
Manager, Wisconsin Lawyer Assistance Program (WisLAP)

Steps to Self CareBar Survival Kit

Lawyer Assistance Program, Maryland State Bar Association

Links to Resources:

Bar Exam Toolbox

Dealing with Bar Exam Stress and Anxiety, by Lee Burgess, Ms. JD

Failing The Bar Exam Doesn’t Have To Be The End Of Your World, by Staci Zaretsky, Above the Law

Keeping Your Sanity During The Bar Exam, by Jeena Cho

Ten Tips for Law Students Dealing With Stress, Mental Health, and Substance Use Issues, prepared by Chris Ritter, JD, Staff Attorney for Texas Lawyers Assistance Program

Tips to Help Stressed-Out Law Students Unclinch, by Angela Morris, Texas Lawyer

10 Tips for Those Delirious From Bar Exam Prep, by Jeena Cho, Above the Law

22 Awesome Bar Exam Tips, Bar Exam Mind

Thank you to the programs named above as well as the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program (TLAP) and Minnesota Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers (LCL) for creating and compiling these resources. 

And of course, thank you to all the LAPs for the vital services you provide. 

Recent Panel on Improving Lawyer Health and Well-being

On June 2nd, a panel discussion titled, “Policy, Process & Prevention: A Systems Approach to Improving the Health and Well-Being of the Profession,” took place at a joint program of the 43rd National Conference on Professional Responsibility and the National Forum on Client Protection. Information about the panelists and moderator is available here, a list that includes Bree Buchanan, incoming Chair of the Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs.

There, the panelists discussed key findings of two recent studies examining substance use disorders, mental health issues and help-seeking behaviors of lawyers and law students, and used them as a framework for ideas, recommendations and approaches for improvement.

A detailed write-up of the session, including audience contributions, is in the Conference Report here.


Recap of Suicide Prevention Twitter Chat

Yesterday the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs hosted a live Twitter Chat on “Suicide Prevention and Postvention in the Legal Profession.” The guests were Kate Bender, Programming Director of the Dave Nee Foundation, and Yvette Hourigan, Executive Director of the Kentucky Lawyer Assistance Program. They discussed the disproportionately high rate of suicides in the legal profession, symptoms or behaviors that might indicate a person may be considering attempting suicide, how to get help or refer someone else to help, and ways law schools and law firms can better address suicide.

Missed it? Not to worry! You can access a recap of the entire conversation here.