What if one rainy afternoon your law partner comes into your office, shuts the door and tells you that he and his wife of 18 years are having serious marital problems? You lend an ear, offer your support and perhaps even encourage him to get legal counsel. But is there something else you could suggest? What if your teenaged child comes home drunk late one night...for the second time in a month? Clearly your parental response to the first such incident did not quite hit home. What do you do now? What if one of the attorneys in a case over which you are presiding is uncharacteristically late with discovery, appears unprepared in court and/or is often late for appearances? Are sanctions your only option?
If you worked at Northrop Grumman or BG&E or any number of major corporations who do business in Maryland, contact with the Employment Assistance Program (EAP) would likely spring to mind as a great resource. While the MSBA is not an “employer,” providing valuable member services is an important part of its mission. And the MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) is for the Maryland Bar what the EAP is for corporate Maryland.
Jim Quinn, MSBA Director of Lawyer Assistance, has established more than 50 corporate Employee Assistance Programs in Maryland. In his experience, most personal problems affecting job performance fall into three categories: (1) Relationship/Marriage; (2) Mental health (depression, stress and/or anxiety); and (3) Alcohol and other drugs. Quinn has spent more than 25 years developing a network of specialists to assist lawyers and their families who are experiencing these and other difficulties.
In 1981, Maryland became the first state in the country to create a program to help lawyers whose use of alcohol was affecting their ability to practice law. Under the guidance of its first Director, Richard B. Vincent, the LAP has expanded its support to include mental health issues, family matters, burn-out, chronic illness, grief and even preparation for retirement. Quinn embraces the broad-brushed approach of the Maryland LAP. In fact, his goal for the coming year is to increase awareness of the program among law firms, solo and small firm practitioners and their families. He is available to speak to local and specialty bars, to the bench, to the Board of Bar Examiners and to law schools. He encourages inquiries about the program and, most importantly, he encourages confidential contact from Maryland judges, attorneys and their families.
The practice of law has evolved into a high-stress endeavor. Court dockets are over-crowded. Litigation is more complex. Many families have two working parents caring for both children in high school or college and aging parents whose health is failing. Long commutes in heavy traffic, the pressure of billable hours, the escalating cost of living and a soft housing market are just a few of the realities that make up the average day. When it all piles up and spills out into substandard performance and problems at home, call Jim Quinn at (443) 703-3041. He can help!
Valerie Siegel is a member of the MSBA, the Maryland Bar Foundation, and a former member of the Lawyer Assistance Committee. She is currently on sabatical while completing her Master’s in Counseling at the University of San Diego.