Maryland Bar Center
520 West Fayette Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Direct Line: 443-703-3041
Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C, CAC
Lawyers Assistance Program Counselor
Direct Line: 443-703-3042
Honorable William G. Simmons
Lawyer Assistance Committee Chair
Maryland Lawyers Are
Carol P. Waldhauser
Lawyer #1 is a winner in court. He is a winner
with his family. Nonetheless, he is giving up on life.
Lawyer #2 is an excellent partner. She is a great
parent, too! However, she is also a closet alcoholic.
Lawyer #3 is a fair and reasonable administrative
judge. He is involved in his community. Unfortunately, he suffers
from anxiety and is self-medicating his fears with prescription
This month's column in the Maryland State Bar
Bulletin highlights the issues that the MSBA'S Lawyer Assistance
Program (LAP) sees and hears about on a daily basis: chemical dependency;
alcoholism, depression, death, suicide; stress; burnout; life changes;
grief and other issues regarding adulthood and aging. So, why write
Because lawyers spend most of their time dealing
with other people's problems and often ignore their own. The day-to-day
pressures and deadlines of practice, coupled with the ongoing responsibilities
of life itself, can and often does manifest into acute difficulties
such as: anxiety, depression or chemical and alcohol dependency.
Studies over the past several years confirm that
lawyers experience a high rate of depression, chemical dependency
and other psychological, behavioral and physical symptoms that
may be related to the stress of practicing law. It is estimated
that at least 18 percent of lawyers may be dealing with the issues
of chemical dependency and alcoholism. With approximately 20,0000
lawyers licensed in the state, and more graduating from law school
every year, that means that potentially 3,600 individuals are dealing
with, or will deal with, these issues at some time in their law
Consider also the incidence of depression among
lawyers. Studies suggest that lawyers suffer from elevated feelings
of psychological distress, including feelings of inadequacy, inferiority,
anxiety, social alienation, isolation and depression, and in fact,
top the list in incidences of major stress and depression among
the various professions. Indeed, the number of calls to the MSBA'S
Lawyer Assistance Program relating to mental health issues among
lawyers has increased substantially within the past three years.
Generally, these diseases are treatable; and recoveries
are a reality. That is why, person by person, the MSBA'S Lawyer
Assistance Program has reached out to help more than 1,500 lawyers
and law students suffering with such diseases.
The MSBA'S Lawyer Assistance Program knows that
being a lawyer takes stamina, both physically and mentally. It
is all to clear that a lawyer is a representative of clients, an
officer of the court systems, and a public citizen having a special
responsibility for the equality of justice. More importantly, however,
the MSBA'S Lawyer Assistance Program realizes that lawyers are
human and, as such, experience human emotional problems.
By identifying the problem, facilitating treatment
and supporting in recovery, the MSBA'S Lawyer Assistance Program
fulfils its mission:
To enhance the quality of life of those
working in the legal community by delivering education and
assistance on mental/emotional,drug, alcohol, family, health
and other personal and/or health problems. Together, The Maryland
State Bar Association, The Lawyer Assistance Committee and
the LAP Staff are committed in developing and maintaining effective
problem solving for the individual and to create a workplace
atmosphere that encourages profession growth and excellence.
On the other hand, you may think you can practice law
successfully if you have these problems, but statistics prove otherwise:
a large percentage of all lawyer discipline cases involves alcohol
and/or drug addiction, with mental health problems accounting for
a significant percentage of the remainder.
In fact, The MSBA'S Lawyer Assistance Program
(LAP) was created to address these concerns. The Lawyer Assistance
Program is a member service of the Maryland State Bar which provides
information and confidential, meaningful assistance to judges,
lawyers, law students and their families.
Because of the sensitive nature of addiction and
psychological problems, lawyers who may be in need of help are
often very reluctant to seek that assistance. Recognizing this
concern and in order to foster early and confidential contact with
the MSBA'S Lawyer Assistance Program, the program is recognized
by the Maryland Court of Appeals:
The Lawyer Assistance Program (f/k/a: Lawyer
Counseling Committee) "…means a group of individuals
that: (I) is recognized by the Court of Appeals; (II) is a
standing committee of the Maryland State Bar Association, or
of a local bar association; (iii) consists of lawyers and other
individuals necessary to carry out the function of the committee;
and (iv) evaluates and helps a lawyer in need of treatment
and rehabilitation for: l. Substance abuse; or 2. Any other
physical, emotional or mental condition that adversely affects
the ability of the lawyer to practice law in accordance with
the rules adopted by the Court of Appeals. " The Maryland
Annotated Code, Business Occupations and Professions",
Sec. 10-502 (a) Definitions.
Furthermore, and in addition to the trained staff,
the backbone of the Lawyer Assistance Program is a network of over
300 attorneys who have volunteered their time and services to help
a lawyer in need.
These volunteers stand ready to assist the trained
office staff of the Lawyer Assistance Program, the Director and
the Program Administrator/Assistant Director, to assist their peers
in all areas of their recovery. The new Chair of the Committee
is Charles E. Kountz, Esquire who has been a practicing attorney
for more than 30 years.
Among the services, which LAP can offer to an
impaired judge, lawyer, law student or support person is:
- Assessment and Referral: A trained member of the LAP staff
will meet with the attorney either at the LAP office (Maryland
Bar Center, 520 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, Maryland) or
off-site, to evaluate the problem and recommend available treatment
and rehabilitation options.
- Interventions: In appropriate situations, a member of the staff
and/or committee will plan, rehearse, and facilitate a formal
intervention to assist an impaired attorney.
- Peer Support Network: The attorney in need of assistance will
be paired with a lawyer in their area as their mentor and to
help them deal with the rehabilitation.
- Attorney Support Meetings: LAP sponsors weekly and monthly
meetings where attorneys help each other deal with the problems
and stresses of practicing law.
- Education and Prevention: LAP works with law firms, the courts,
local Bar's and schools to educate members of those entities
concerning attorney impairment and recovery. In addition, LAP
makes regular presentations at the law schools through the state
regarding stress management, anger management, addiction, etc.
- Structured Rehabilitation Program: In cases involving attorney
discipline or admissions problems, LAP will implement a structured
rehabilitation program which can document an attorney's or law
student's recovery. The Attorney Grievance Commission and/or
the Board of Law Examiners will often consider such evidence
of recovery when determining discipline or recommendations for
Perhaps most importantly you sitting in your office
reading this issue of the Maryland Bar Bulletin will be more willing
to pick up the phone and call the MSBA'S Lawyer Assistance Program
( (410) 685-3993 or (410)-685-7878 or 1-800-492-1964 and ask for
Ex. 251 (Richard Vincent) or 252 (Carol P. Waldhauser) if you are
concerned about yourself or another lawyer (judge, law student
or staff person).
Remember, Maryland lawyers, judges law students and staff don't
have to face their problems alone. Moreover, each call serves to
chip away at the stigma associated with these diseases that often
works to keep lawyers sick and isolated from support and assistance.
For more information call Carol P. Waldhauser, Program Administrator,
(410) 685-7878 Ex. 252 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org,
plus visit our WEB PAGE at www.msba.org,
click on "departments" then click on "Lawyer Assistance