Judicial Mental Health: Recognizing Problems, Finding Wellness Resources

An ABA CLE Webinar | November 9, 2017 | 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM ET

Judges must manage the competing stresses of their chosen profession. They are held to high standards ethically and professionally and are subject to many professional guidelines, standards, and expectations. Judges also face financial realities associated with compensation limitations of public service. While other professions and legal practitioners are in many ways more advanced in their recognition of such concerns, recent tragic events require the judiciary to examine these issues in more depth.

This webinar will explain the medical underpinnings of these issues as they relate to the professional pressures judges face.

A medical professional expert in psychiatry will explain the science and how his profession deals with similar issues. In addition, a leader in the field of practitioner mental health issues will suggest ways that judges can assist their colleagues and how the practitioner model can apply to the judiciary. Faculty will examine the demands of the profession and offer tools for dealing with those demands.

Learn more and register.

Also, access CoLAP’s resources for judges here.

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New Virginia Ethics Opinion on Duty to Report Impaired Lawyers

In December 2016, Virginia State Bar Ethics Committee Opinion No. 1886 addressed the duties of supervisory lawyers in a firm to take preemptive action when a lawyer in the firm is suffering from an impairment that might affect his or her ability to represent clients. There, supervisory lawyers were uniquely found to have an obligation to take precautionary measures before misconduct occurs because of their duties under Rule 5.1 to ensure that other lawyers in the firm are complying with their ethical duties.

Just recently, a new Opinion (No. 1887) looks at whether lawyers who are not in a supervisory role have a duty to report a lawyer who continues to represent clients while suffering from an impairment. The hypothetical scenarios presented were those involving a solo practitioner and the sole managing partner or owner of a firm that employs associates but no other partners.

The Committee generally found that “other than a lawyer who is a partner or in a supervisory role in a law firm, lawyers do not have a duty to proactively address the impairment of other lawyers.” Rule 8.3(a) requires reporting when a lawyer has “…reliable information that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness to practice law…” The Committee reasons that, “In a specific instance where other lawyers believe that a lawyer is impaired, there might not be specific misconduct that the lawyers know about and that is subject to Rule 8.3(a).”

However, it goes on to explain that a duty to report under 8.3(a) will often be triggered by a violation of Rule 1.16(a)(2), which requires a lawyer to withdraw or decline representation if “the lawyer’s physical or mental condition materially impairs the lawyer’s ability to represent the client.” The Committee provides that a “material impairment in a lawyer’s ability to represent the client almost by definition raises a substantial question as to the lawyer’s fitness to practice law.” The distinguishing factor is whether there is evidence that the lawyer’s ability to represent clients is currently compromised.

Regardless of whether a bar complaint is warranted, the Committee says that concerned lawyers should contact Lawyers Helping Lawyers or encourage the impaired lawyer to do so.

For a more detailed analysis, read the full Opinion here.

Judicial well-being

Judicial ethics and discipline

The National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being has released The Path to Lawyer Well-Being:  Practical Recommendations for Positive Change, a report with 44 recommendations “for minimizing lawyer dysfunction, boosting well-being, and reinforcing the importance of well-being to competence and excellence in practicing law.”  (The task force was initiated by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, the National Organization of Bar Counsel, and the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers.)  The recommendations have 5 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…

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Upcoming CLE Webinar on Lawyer Well-Being

The Path to Lawyer Well-being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change

An ABA Free CLE Series Webinar
October 16, 2017 | 1:00 – 2:35 PM ET

Co-chairs of the National Task Force on Well-Being will discuss the group’s report, “The Path To Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change,” published August 2017. This groundbreaking initiative of the Commission on Lawyers Assistance Programs, National Organization of Bar Counsel and Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers puts into action the group’s mission of “creating a movement to improve the health and well-being of the legal profession.”

In this ABA Free CLE Series webinar, speakers will provide information on two recent studies that revealed the high rates of substance use and mental health disorders among law students and lawyers, statistics that served as catalysts for the report. They will present recommendations to multiple legal stakeholders, including legal employers, regulators and bar associations, on what they can each do to institute a culture change so that well-being becomes a priority. Much focus will be placed on ABA model rule 1.1, competence, and the recognition that well-being is an essential aspect of competent and ethical practice. Speakers will present information on how all members of the profession can work to promote lawyers’ well-being, thereby ensuring fitness to practice, competent representation and ethical engagement.

Learn more and register

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 or The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

Those who don’t want to call can text HOME to 741741 to be connected to a live, trained counselor within a matter of minutes via the Crisis Text Line. Both resources are available 24/7.

Judges, lawyers and law students who are facing mental health concerns can also contact their local lawyer assistance program for assistance.

The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) can help you promote awareness by sharing images and graphics on your website and social media accounts.

Access a recap of ABA CoLAP’s recent Suicide Prevention Twitter Chat, and a free recording of the ABA webinar, I’ve Got Your Back; You’ve Got My Ear: Suicide Prevention in the Legal Profession.

From NAMI: “While suicide prevention is important to address year-round, Suicide Prevention Awareness Month provides a dedicated time to come together with collective passion and strength around a difficult topic.”

Facebook-suicideprevention

 

Lawyer Well-Being in the News

August has been a big month for lawyer well-being! In a previous post, we reported on some comprehensive new recommendations for a variety of legal stakeholders created by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being. Since their release, a number of news outlets, magazines, blogs and bars have taken notice, including:

LISTEN: Podcast: Patrick Krill on Addiction in the Legal Industry & the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being (Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute, September 7, 2017)

Official ABA Press Release: Growing concern over well-being of lawyers leads to comprehensive new recommendations (ABA News, August 14, 2017)

1Ls, Prioritize Mental Health (The Harvard Law Record, August 31, 2017)

4 Ways Law Firms Can Help Battle Addiction (Law 360, August 24, 2017)

ABA releases report on improving lawyer well-being (The Indiana Lawyer, August 14, 2017)

ABA Report Promotes Changes to Treat Addiction, Depression (The American Lawyer, August 14, 2017)

ABA report seeks to transform attitudes on lawyer well-being (North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, September 6, 2017) Subscription required

A Clarion Call for Attorney Wellness (Law Week Colorado, August 24, 2017)

BigLaw At A ‘Crossroads’ On Mental Health, Report Finds (Law 360, August 14, 2017)

Culture Change Needed (Virginia Lawyers Weekly, September 5, 2017) Subscription required

How Dare You Send Me A Book On Addiction! Do You Think I Have A Problem? (Above the Law, August 16, 2017)

How Law Firms Can Help Their Lawyers’ Well-Being (Texas Lawyer, August 16, 2017)

How Lawyers Need to Be Healthier: Q&A (Bloomberg Law Big Law Business, August 6, 2017)

Judicial well-being, Judicial Ethics and Discipline, a blog of the Center for Judicial Ethics of the National Center for State Courts

Keeping Lawyers Mentally Fit Is on the Docket (Bloomberg BNA, August 24, 2017)

Lawyers and Addiction (Illinois Bar Journal, September 2017)

Law: Mental health resources lacking for attorneys (Bizwomen, August 16, 2017)

Lawyer Well-Being: A Call to Action (Ethical Grounds, The Unofficial Blog of Vermont’s Bar Counsel, August 18, 2017)

Lawyer Well-Being: Creating A Movement To Improve The Legal Profession (Forbes, August 15, 2017)

Lawyer wellness should be a priority, report says (Minnesota Lawyer, August 25, 2017)

National Task Force Report: Here, Now, a Watershed for a Lawyer’s Well-Being (Thompson Reuters Legal Executive Institute, August 14, 2017)

Shining a Light on Lawyers’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health (Illinois Supreme Court on Professionalism 2Civility Blog, August 15, 2017)

Some Law Schools Take the Lead in Students’ Well-Being, Report Finds (The National Law Journal, August 17, 2017)

State Lawyers’ Group Looks To Improve Attorney Well-Being (Wisconsin Public Radio News, August 15, 2017)

Substance Abuse: Tragic Story Highlights Need for Culture Change (State Bar of Wisconsin Inside Track, August 16, 2017)

The time to help lawyers with mental health services is now, new report says (ABA Journal, August 14, 2017)

The Lawyer Well-Being Movement: A National Task Force Recommends 44 Ways to a Healthier Environment for Attorneys (Texas Bar Journal, October 2017)

What Can Law Firms Do To Promote Well-Being? Suggestions From National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being (Jeena Cho, August 20, 2017).


At the same time, various ABA publications released articles on issues involving attorney well-being.

The August 2017 issue of the ABA Law Practice Division’s Law Practice Today is called “The Attorney Well-Being Issue.” Features include:

Access The Attorney Well-Being Issue | August 2017 in full.

The ABA Young Lawyers Division TYL publication recently featured: How to Avoid a (Less than) Spectacular Burnout in Your Law Practice and How to Maintain Resilience When Dealing with a Mental Health Condition.

And the July/August 2017 issue of GPSOLO from the ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division featured the article, Mindfulness: A Simpler Way to Alleviate Attorney Stress.

Let’s keep the conversation going about #LawyerWellbeing!

Note: This post is being updated on an ongoing basis as developments occur. 

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

BREAKING NEWS:

“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.

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