Lawyers’ Assistance Program
What LAP Can Do For You
Guidelines For Lawyers Assistance Programs Across the Country
The Committee on Alcohol and Drug Abuse of the Louisiana Bar Association is the volunteer arm of LAP, Inc. The Committee is composed of volunteers, both men and women, some in recovery, some family members in recovery, and some just interested in helping with this mounting problem permeating our profession.
The primary goal of LAP, Inc. is to develop and maintain an effective program to identify and assist lawyers and judges impaired by alcoholism or other substance abuse. This aid is proffered in accordance with the guiding principles set forth for state bar associations by the American Bar Association in 1990. Of course, the goal is to improve the quality of services rendered to the public by Louisiana lawyers through helping lawyers impaired by alcohol and other drugs to deal with their problems and regain their ability to provide legal services unaffected by drugs and alcohol.
The following principles are commended to state and local bar organizations by the American Bar Association as standards for existing and future substance abuse programs:
- A statewide lawyer assistance program should be in place.
Each state should have an active lawyer assistance program for lawyers with substance abuse problems. This program should include representatives from the judiciary, the bar and legal educators with a goal of guiding lawyers and law students with substance abuse problems into successful and continuing recovery.
- The confidentiality of those who seek help must be maintained through a rule of court or a legislative act (cf: La. R.S. 37:221 and Supreme Court Ruling).
Those involved in lawyer assistance programs cite confidentiality as essential to the success of any program. The fear that their problem will be reported to disciplinary authorities is so great that many in need will not seek help unless their confidentiality is assured.
- Members of the profession who serve in lawyer assistance programs should be immune from civil liability (cf: La. R.S. 37:221).
Volunteers who give of their time and efforts to assist those with substance abuse problems should not be liable in damages for acts done in good faith.
- Strong, but not exclusive, ties with the recovering community should be maintained.
Those in recovery from substance abuse must make a lifetime commitment to abstain from using alcohol and other drugs. Participation in one of the twelve steps programs or their equivalent is necessary to sustain that commitment. It is essential, therefore, that leaders of the bar and the recovering lawyer community work together.
- Strong working relationships should be maintained between state and local programs and their sponsoring bar organizations.
The state program should maintain the responsibility for assuring that local programs in the state maintain a high standard of quality and that their activities involve the protection and confidentiality of those working in the programs. Local programs should seek assistance from their state programs and assurances that the other principles embodied in this statement are provided by the state if the local association cannot fully implement them.
- A program for monitoring lawyers who have been brought to the attention of the disciplinary system as a result of substance abuse problem should be maintained with the appropriate disciplinary agency·
Most states recognize that substance abuse may be a mitigating factor in a disciplinary case where the lawyer has recognized his problem and is in recovery. It is essential that a method of monitoring the lawyer's activities be in place for a program of recovery and restoration to work.
- Substance abuse programs and disciplinary agencies should establish and maintain a system for the referral of lawyers with substance abuse problems to the substance abuse program.
Disciplinary agencies frequently receive complaints which may be the result of substance abuse problems. With a proper referral mechanism in place, many lawyers may be assisted before the need for disciplinary enforcement is necessary.
- An educational element should be developed to inform the public, the judiciary, the bar, law students and the disciplinary agencies of the assistance that is available for those in need.
As part of ongoing efforts at early intervention and prevention, direct efforts to educate the profession should be implemented. Ethics and professional responsibility classes in law schools should be used to inform law students about the nature and effects of substance abuse.
Presentations to the membership of bar associations, law firms, civic clubs and the like are also encouraged.
- A substance abuse lecture should be part of the continuing legal education of each bar and the curriculum of each law school. The effect of substance abuse is so devastating upon the law practice and potentially so damaging to clients' interests that all lawyers should be trained to recognize the early symptoms, to understand that the disease is treatable and how to get help for themselves and their colleagues.
- A periodic review of the program should be accomplished.
Periodic review of the program by the bar association responsible for its sponsorship is essential to the proper functioning of the program in order to keep current on new trends in the field and to be certain that the program is functioning in accordance with these principles and those established locally for its operation.
In attempting to follow the principles outlined above, it is necessary for the Committee to establish some guidelines for control purposes.
All contacts made to the committee members should be reported immediately to the Executive Director of the LAP program. Even if a committee member personally hearing about a situation or is called about a specific individual, contact shall be made only after reporting to the LAP Director. After the committee member contacts the LAP Director, the committee member might be asked to investigate the individual for the purpose of determining whether the lawyer or judge has a problem with alcohol and drugs.
The mission of the Committee is to protect and improve the image, reputation and level of services of the legal profession in Louisiana.
This will be done by encouraging and facilitating appropriate avenues of treatment for anyone whose drinking or drug use interferes with the practice of law.
The extensive mission outlined above should be accomplished through two primary avenues:
- Education of the Bar and Judiciary about chemical dependency through media coverage, personal appearances, direct mail and advertising in legal publications.
Members of the Committee should be willing to speak about our program and the services available. Any speeches made by committee members should be reported to the LAP Director.
- Assisting in obtaining appropriate treatment for lawyers and judges, their family members and office staff. This assistance shall include, but not limited to, information, referral, facilitation of intervention procedures, accompaniment to treatment and to provide assistance after treatment.
The LAP Director, with the aid of professionals throughout the state and nation, has formulated a list of intervention trainers and facilitators. Treatment programs will be monitored on a continuing basis. Remember, the quality of any specific treatment program evolves and changes. Just because you know of a treatment center which provided quality treatment in the past, it should not be assumed that the program is providing the best treatment available today.
There are state treatment programs which are as good as or better than some private facilities. The LAP Director will also have available a list of the names of professionals around the state who can help the Committee in evaluating a person's condition.
Communications to anyone working with the Committee are, by state statute and Supreme Court rule, confidential (cf: R.S. 37:221 and Supreme Court Rule XIX).
This should be emphasized when talking about the Committee or when any inquiry is made by a committee member.
- A communication to the Committee cannot be divulged without permission.
- Confidentiality is a two-way street ??
A communication to the Committee is not a communication to the State Bar and does not prejudice a disciplinary proceeding begun on the basis of information from other sources.
- The Committee is not a sanctuary and does not shield a lawyer from disciplinary proceedings.
Committee members will not take an active role in any disciplinary proceeding unless resource assistance is requested by the Disciplinary Counsel's Office.
Committee members cannot divulge information to the Disciplinary Counsel's Office from or about a lawyer without the express permission of the lawyer.
Lawyers who work with the Committee are prohibited from accepting employment by the impaired lawyer. Committee members should never use their position on the Committee for client development purposes.
A committee member working with an impaired lawyer, who faces possible disciplinary problems, should refer that lawyer to independent counsel for advice and representation.
The LAP Director will coordinate the monitoring of any impaired lawyer or judge referred by the Disciplinary Counsel's Office or the Supreme Court. In such cases, the LAP Director will ask a committee member to be a monitor for the impaired lawyer or judge.
The monitor will be provided a copy of the agreement entered into with the impaired lawyer along with the necessary reporting forms that will be filled out by the impaired lawyer and the monitor. The monitor could be asked to help provide a sponsor who would also be part of the reporting process.
If random drug testing is part of the agreement, the LAP Director will provide the name of the testing lab nearest the impaired lawyer. All test reports will be forwarded to the LAP office.
Other than responding to a request for information concerning the Committee, no committee member may proceed to counsel or assist an impaired lawyer or institute the intervention process under claim or sanction of authority of the Committee without authorization from the LAP Director.
Inquiries as to treatment programs or intervention specialists should be discussed with the LAP Director before the committee member gives advice to the requesting party.
Lawyer Support Groups
Lawyer support groups consist of recovering lawyers and judges meeting together on a weekly basis. These groups have been very effective in other states and are essential to a successful overall program.
These groups provide a forum for recovering lawyers. They are not to be considered the recovering lawyers home group and this should be pointed out to newcomers. This meeting is a support group meeting and should be considered just that.
These meetings can also be used for interaction between monitors and the monitored lawyer. Another reason for these meetings is that they can provide a place for dissemination of information to committee members.