In Remembrance of Michael Cohen

Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc., and CoLAP said a final goodbye to a valued and beloved member of both organizations. Michael Cohen passed away on October 18, 2017, after a lengthy illness which seldom prevented him from doing the work he loved. He was the Executive Director of the Florida program for twenty-two years and an active member of CoLAP during that time. While he served on a number of committees, he is probably best known for his work as part of the Program Evaluation Committee, which played a significant part in the formation of many new or struggling programs.

He shared his own recovery freely and provided hope and encouragement to many lawyers who were discouraged about their careers and their personal lives. As a lawyer friend of Michael posted on Facebook, “There are lawyers who are alive today, who are practicing today, who are not in jail today, who owe everything they are today to the existence of Michael Cohen.”

He left his mark on many individuals and on the organizations he served with such passion. He will be missed and remembered, and the work of FLA and CoLAP will continue.

Post written by Judith R. Rushlow, Executive Director, Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc.





Introducing New Voices of Recovery Podcast Series

The ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs has produced a new podcast series about overcoming substance use disorders, mental health issues and addiction. The lawyers featured in this series have all agreed to tell their story in the hope that it will reduce the stigma surrounding these issues and encourage others to get the help they need.

11/10/17 | Episode 1: Laurie Besden, Executive Director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers of Pennsylvania, Inc.

Podcast player



Twitter Chat on Problem Gambling in the Legal Profession

On Dec 13, 2017, the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs will be hosting a live Twitter Chat on “Problem Gambling in the Legal Profession.” From 1:00 to 2:00pm Eastern time, @ABACoLAP will be discussing the topic over Twitter with special guests, Christine Anderson, Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (@ChristineARDC) and Keith Whyte, National Council on Problem Gambling (@ncpgambling). They will be discussing the consequences of problem gambling in the legal profession, signs and symptoms that might indicate a person may have a gambling problem, how to get help or refer someone else to help, and ways law schools and law firms can better address problem gambling.

All are encouraged to follow along by tracking tweets with #GamblingHelp4Lawyers and to participate with questions and comments by using #GamblingHelp4Lawyers in your tweets.

Download the flyer and spread the word!

PNG Flyer

ABA Division for Bar Services Webinar on Lawyer Well-Being

The ABA Division for Bar Services is dedicating their November 13, 2017 “Bar School” webinar to the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being’s report and recommendations. “Bar School” is a monthly webinar series focusing on topics of interest to the bar association community. Bree Buchanan, Chair of the Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, and James Coyle, Advisory Committee Member of the Commission, will be presenting. See below for more program details.

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

An ABA Division for Bar Services “Bar School” Webinar
November 13, 2017 | 1:00 PM CST

In this 60-minute webinar, 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 ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, National Organization of Bar Counsel and Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers put into action the group’s mission of “creating a movement to improve the health and well-being of the legal profession.” Speakers will discuss two recent studies that revealed high rates of substance use and mental health disorders among law students and lawyers, and which served as catalysts for the report. Speakers will explore how bar associations and lawyers, individually, can work to promote lawyers’ well-being, thereby ensuring fitness to practice, competent representation and ethical engagement.


Bree Buchanan, Director, State Bar of Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program,
Chair, ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs,
Co-Chair, National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being

James C. Coyle, Attorney Regulation Counsel, Colorado Supreme Court,
Advisory Committee Member, ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs,
Co-Chair, National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being


“Stories of Recovery” Blog Series from Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program

The Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program “Stories of Recovery” series in the Texas Bar Blog features attorneys in their own words on how they have overcome mental health or substance use problems. In the most recent post, “Half the man I used to be and twice the man I ever was,” an attorney shares how he had nearly given up trying to lose weight when he discovered 12-step meetings for overeating.

Access the entire TLAP “Stories of Recovery” series here.


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.

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.