NM Bar Discusses Secondary Trauma

A recent article in the State Bar of New Mexico’s Bar Bulletin discusses how lawyers and judges, due to the nature of their work, are at risk of experiencing secondary trauma, also known as vicarious trauma or compassion fatigue.  As author Hallie Love explains, “The cumulative direct exposure to others’ trauma can result in emotional duress to the lawyers and judges and other legal personnel who work with traumatized populations.” Secondary trauma can result in a number of debilitating symptoms, putting both lawyers and clients at risk. The article offers prevention measures, such as increasing resilience, as well as body-based treatment options.

Read, “Lawyers Are at Risk for Secondary Traumatic Stress,” in the February 15, 2017 Bar Bulletin.

In October 2014, the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs sponsored a webinar titled, “Keeping Legal Minds Intact: Mitigating Compassion Fatigue Among Legal Professionals.” In December 2016, CoLAP sponsored the webinar, “Fierce & Gritty: Resilience Training for Lawyers.” Both are available on the CoLAP Website.

ABA Approves Changes to CLE Model Rule, Adding Substance Use, Mental Health Requirement

On Monday, the ABA House of Delegates approved a Resolution amending the ABA Model Rule for Minimum Continuing Legal Education which includes a requirement for lawyers to receive at least one hour of mental health or substance use disorder programming every three years. It also calls for one hour of diversity and inclusion programming every three years. The Resolution was sponsored by the ABA’s Standing Committee on Continuing Legal Education, Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and Law Practice Division.

The comments detail that while these types of programs generally count toward general CLE or ethics requirements, this Model Rule distinctively recommends a stand-alone requirement. The Resolution’s accompanying Report explains that it may reduce the concern of lawyers who are reluctant to attend due to stigma.

According to the Report, the 2016 study by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation was a catalyst for the change, stating, “Many organizations, including [CoLAP], have seen the study’s findings as a call to action, which led to this Model Rule’s recommendation that all lawyers take one credit of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Programming every three years.”

Access Resolution 106 and its Report here. 

Educating Law Students and Young Lawyers on Mental Health and Substance Use Issues in Indiana

A 2016 study by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation revealed troubling statistics on the levels of problematic drinking, depression and anxiety within the legal profession. It also uncovered that these problems are more prevalent among younger attorneys.

Last week, an article at TheIndianaLawyer.com highlighted ongoing efforts to help law students and young lawyers address these issues. Among those featured are the confidential services of the Indiana Supreme Court’s Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program, programming at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, including a new Yoga Club, and the work of the Indiana State Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section’s Wellness Committee.

Also included is a message to students from the Indiana Board of Law Examiners that “…a willingness to identify and respond to mental health issues actually reflects well on bar applicants…” and to …“never avoid seeking help just because they are afraid of looking bad on a bar exam application.”

Impairment in the Law Firm: Ethical Duties of Partners and Supervisory Lawyers

In a December 2016 advisory opinion, the Supreme Court of Virginia examined…”the ethical obligations of a partner or supervisory lawyer who reasonably believes another lawyer in the firm may be suffering from a significant impairment that poses a risk to clients or the general public.” Distinct from reporting obligations when an impaired lawyer has already engaged in misconduct, this opinion addresses the obligation to take precautionary measures before misconduct occurs.

Relying on ABA Formal Opinion 03-429 (2003), the Court concluded that the state’s Rules of Professional Conduct require partners or supervisory lawyers in law firms to make reasonable efforts to ensure that an impaired lawyer in the firm, or under their supervision, does not violate the Rules, and further, that they take reasonable steps to prevent such violations by the impaired lawyer.

Access Supreme Court of Virginia Legal Ethics Opinion 1886 here, which includes hypotheticals and various approaches firms can take when addressing impairment.

New “Mailbag” Column to Address Attorney Mental Health and Substance Use

Patrick Krill – strategic advisor to law firms on addiction and mental health problems, and former director of a treatment program for attorneys, judges and law students at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation – is taking your questions.

In, “Let’s Address the Elephant in the Law Firm,” Krill introduces a new bi-weekly “mailbag” column and invites readers to email him their questions to which Krill will respond (with pseudonyms, of course) in subsequent columns. In initiating this “candid” discussion, Krill hopes to “educate, motivate, demystify, and destigmatize”

Krill co-authored the 2016 ABA CoLAP/Hazelden study which revealed (or for many, confirmed) that the legal profession is struggling with mental health issues and substance use disorders at rates far higher than the general population and other professions.

Access the LAW.COM Column here.



Looking Forward to a Happy & Healthy 2017

The end of 2016 is upon us and another new year awaits. This year, it was reported through an ABA CoLAP/Hazelden Betty Ford study that the legal profession is experiencing alcohol use disorders and mental health issues at rates higher than those among the general population and other professions. Another study this year revealed high rates of binge drinking or misuse of drugs, and/or reported mental health challenges among law students, who are, at the same time, reluctant to seek help. As we look towards 2017, it’s important to reflect on the realities of our profession, and take positive steps towards maintaining and treating our physical and mental health.

Jeena Cho – lawyer, co-author of The Anxious Lawyer, co-founder of Shape the Law and all-around contributor to the discussion of wellness, mindfulness and resilience in the legal profession – is helping to set the new year off right with a recap of useful articles in the the Above the Law post, “10 Tips For An Inspiring 2017.” For more resources, including a directory of state and local lawyer assistance programs, visit the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs  website.

A Look at the WisLAP / UW Law School Health Ambassador Partnership

A recent article in The Badger Herald highlights a valuable partnership between the Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program (WisLAP) and the University of Wisconsin Law School (UW Law). In an effort to bring more resources to law students, and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and substance use disorders, health ambassadors (currently eight total) serve as liaisons between WisLAP and the UW Law student body. In their role, liaisons develop programming to expand health and wellness support, promote healthier social events, and are there to listen to a fellow student’s concerns and personally follow-up.

Read what Mary Spranger, WisLAP manager, and Jen Bizzotto, one of the UW Law health ambassadors, have to say about the partnership in the article, “UW Law School looks to de-stigmatize mental illness among graduate students.”