Mark your calendars for CoLAP’s 2019 National Conference for Lawyer Assistance Programs, “From Surviving to Thriving: LAPs Lead the Way,” taking place September 24-26, 2019 at the Hilton Austin Hotel, Austin, Texas.
The conference will have sessions of interest to judges, disciplinary staff, bar leaders, risk managers, 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. The conference also features an Exhibit Hall of facilities that address substance use disorders, mental health issues and well-being.
This is a unique opportunity to learn about issues that directly impact the legal community’s well-being, and the services and resources offered by lawyer assistance programs.
Check back on the ABA CoLAP website for more information as it becomes available.
In the recent KUAF Public Radio podcast, “Maintaining Mental Health During Law School,” David Jaffe, Associate Dean of Student Affairs at American University’s Washington College of Law, discusses how a variety of factors can contribute to a law student’s stress and anxiety. He explains how important it is for law schools to provide a support system for students, and for students to seek help early on, to prevent new or worsen existing mental health or substance use issues.
Jaffe, who is also the Co-Chair of the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP) Law School Assistance Committee, explains how taking time for self-care may seem like lost time for maintaining your competitive edge, but that you will be better for it in the long run. And while stigma and fear of being denied admission to the bar continue to stand in the way of treatment, students should know they are not alone, and that ignoring the issue will only do more harm than good.
Listen to the podcast episode here.
As of January 1st, the character and fitness portion of the Virginia bar application no longer requires disclosure of an applicant’s mental health conditions and treatment. The change comes after student organizations of the University of Richmond School of Law requested that the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners make the change, reasoning that such questions stand to discourage law students from seeking help for fear they will be denied admission to the bar. The replacement question instead asks about “…any conduct or behavior that could call into question [the applicant’s] ability to perform any of the obligations and responsibilities of a practicing lawyer in a competent, ethical and professional manner.”
The students’ letter to the Virginia Board references ABA Resolution 105, which urges stakeholders to consider the recommendations in the August 2017 report by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, including the recommendation to “re-evaluate bar application inquiries about mental health history.” Further back in August 2015, the ABA adopted Resolution 102, calling for the elimination of character and fitness questions that ask about mental health history, diagnoses or treatment, and urging licensing entities to instead focus on conduct or behavior.
Learn more in the Richmond Times-Dispatch article, “Virginia panel scraps mental health question after law school student push.”
The Mindfulness in Law Society (MILS) has launched a new “Mindful Mondays at 4” initiative. Every Monday at 4 p.m., in each time zone, members of the national MILS community lead a half-hour “virtual sit.” Anyone in the legal profession is welcome to attend the sitting in any time zone. Sessions generally consist of about 20 minutes of guided meditation, and 10 minutes of questions and discussion.
The mission of the Mindfulness in Law Society is to “educate, coordinate and promote activities in the legal profession relating to mindfulness meditation, yoga, and other contemplative practices.”
Visit the MILS website to learn more about session leaders and how to join.
Two bar publications are dedicating their feature articles to health and wellness issues this month.
The January 2019 issue of Law Practice Today from the ABA Law Practice Division is called the “Attorney Well-Being Issue” and includes:
- Crush Your New Year Goals with Psychological Capital, by Martha Knudson
- Managing the Weight of Depression, by Dr. Jeffrey Fortgang and Dr. Shawn Healy
- Reining in Perfectionism, by Jordana Alter Confino
- Well-Being for Attorneys, by Stewart Levine
- Positive Psychology Can Improve Your Relational Well-Being, by Suzann Pileggi Pawelski
Access these articles and more in the January 2019 issue of Law Practice Today.
The January-February 2019 issue of the DC Bar’s publication, The Washington Lawyer, includes:
- A message from DC Bar President Esther Lim, titled “Be Well”
- When Judges Need Help, by Anna Stolley Persky
- Fighting the Stigma, Breaking the Silence: The D.C. Bar Lawyer Assistance Program, by John Murph
- First Person: Stories of Recovery and Resilience, compiled by Jeffery Leon
- Coping & The Road to Wellness, by Sarah Kellogg
Access these articles and more in the January-February 2019 issue of The Washington Lawyer.
The Connecticut Bar Association (CBA) has launched a new Lawyer Wellbeing Website. The website features a calendar of wellness-related events, on-demand CLE webinars on wellness topics such as mindfulness and emotional intelligence, and articles and toolkits, such as the ABA Well-Being Toolkit for Lawyers and Legal Employers. And of course, it links to Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers-Connecticut, Inc, the organization that provides assistance to those in the Connecticut legal community experiencing substance use or mental health health issues.
Also included is a new Wellbeing Video Series. The first episode in the series, “Living with a Mental Health Condition,” featuring Kathleen Flaherty, CBA member, has three parts: Part 1 – Becoming a Lawyer; Part 2 – Law School and Passing the Bar; and Part 3 – Staying Well and Balanced.
Check out the new CBA Lawyer Wellbeing Website here.
ABA President Bob Carlson’s “President’s Message,” in the December 2018 issue of the ABA Journal, highlights efforts the ABA is making to improve well-being in the legal profession. Two such initiatives, organized by the ABA Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession, are a toolkit that offers practical guidance to legal employers who want to join the lawyer well-being movement by launching organizational initiatives, and a pledge campaign calling upon legal employers to adopt a seven-point framework to improve the substance use and mental health landscape of the legal profession. The Working Group was formed in September 2017 at the request of Immediate Past-President Hilarie Bass, and continues to operate under the leadership of President Carlson.
A 2016 study conducted by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP) and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation revealed troubling rates of depression, anxiety and problem drinking among attorneys. President Carlson reminds readers that, “This issue should be important to all of us in the profession.” He writes, “To be an ethical, competent lawyer, you first need to be a healthy lawyer.”
At the 2018 ABA Midyear Meeting in February, the House of Delegates passed Resolution 105 making it ABA policy to support the goal of reducing mental health and substance use disorders, and urging stakeholders within the legal profession to consider the recommendations set out in, “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change,” from the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being.
Access the full article, “It’s time to promote our health: ABA mobilizes on multiple fronts to address well-being in the legal profession.”
Also, watch this Video Message from President Carlson on the ABA’s lawyer well-being initiatives.