Stress, depression, alcoholism, chemical dependence and other impairments of mental health often bear on a person's competence in handling business matters. These afflictions need intervention and support from others.
Lawyers are no exception to this rule. For many years, Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, Inc., has assisted lawyers, judges and law students who are experiencing any level of impairment in their ability to function as a result of addiction, mental health, personal or medical problems. A private, non-profit corporation, Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers is the only lawyer-assistance program in the state. Their monthly advice column is a fixture of Lawyers Journal (see page B1).
One of the goals of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers is to break through the belief system that suggests a person must wait for help until addiction, depression and stress affect his or her ability to effectively function personally and/or professionally. This organization offers preventive help.
Self-inflicted expectations of success, and the expectations of others and of society at large, place pressures on all of us. As lawyers, we are expected to solve our own personal and financial problems and, in many cases, solve the personal and financial problems of our families. And the very nature of our work is to solve the legal problems of our clients. But history has shown that, although lawyers may be great at solving other people's problems, we're not so great at solving our own. Some lawyers are so extended they are unable to cope or refuse to face the reality of their situation. The effects of addiction, depression or stress are masked and excuses made in order to cover the problems.
The entire legal profession has an interest in the behavior of a single attorney who is impaired by addiction, depression or stress. The legal profession should have - and does have - an interest in identifying these problems and in the recovery of an attorney who is facing or has faced these issues.
It is unfortunate that some fellow attorneys are reluctant to seek help for fear that the recognition of their problems and the need for assistance will be perceived by their peers as a weakness. But the effects of these illnesses are not limited to the impaired lawyers. Families, friends and associates share the pain - and the fears of being labeled, of interfering and of making a bad situation worse.
Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers can help by confidentially working with lawyers who are afflicted, and with family, friends and associates who are affected.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we as individuals and as a society would react to the news that a colleague had entered treatment for substance abuse or depression in the same way we react when we hear a friend has been diagnosed with heart disease or cancer? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we recognized that this person has an illness that requires life changes and support from others? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we offered encouragement and helped them balance their work demands and their treatment needs? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could trust each other in this process? Wouldn't it be wonderful …?
If you have a question for Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, it may be mailed to LCL, 59 Temple Place, Suite 1106, Boston, MA 02111, e-mailed to [e-mail email], or called in to (617) 482-9600. LCL's licensed clinicians will respond in confidence.<</p>
You can visit Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers online at www.lclma.org.