A recent Oregon State Bar Bulletin article discusses the increasing number of cognitive impairment concerns coming into lawyer assistance programs due to an aging pool of practicing attorneys. Substance abuse and mental health issues can be treated, but a condition like dementia is irreversible and therefore requires a different course of action. More and more, bar associations and LAPs are having to face questions like: when does normal age-related impairment cross over into disease? How do you convince a lawyer to retire when it’s necessary to save his or her reputation?
To help explain the significance of aging to cognitive functions, the author cites the CoLAP Senior Lawyer Committee’s “Working Paper on Cognitive Impairment and Cognitive Decline.” The Oregon State Bar is attempting to limit the damage to the public and the impaired lawyer. One way is through an emergency procedure that bypasses discipline and authorizes immediate suspension until the proper course of action can be taken. Another is through custodianship statutes whereby the Bar can assume control over an attorney’s law practice. In most cases, the best place to start is the lawyer assistance program.
You can access the article, “Ready or Not: When Colleagues Experience Cognitive Decline” here.