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Law practice is a stress-prone profession. We know this through research and experience. But what can be done when we—or our colleagues—are responding to the stress in damaging ways?

As much as we might like to see stress in law practice simply evaporate, that is unlikely to happen. And it is stress and its multiple outcomes that make a State Bar seminar this Friday worth considering.

The title is “Protecting Your Practice: Ethically Dealing with the Impaired Lawyer,” and you can get more information (and register) here. As you’ll see, the panel of experts will examine how you can address—and maybe help—a colleague who is exhibiting warning signs of impairment.

The seminar will be held on this Friday morning, December 12. Because you’re likely busy, I’ll lighten your stress level by copying in here the seminar description:

“With the demands and stresses of the profession increasing every day, lawyers have an increased risk of suffering from mental illness and substance abuse. If you encounter an impaired lawyer, what should you do? This program will teach you:

  • The warning signs of alcohol or substance abuse, mental health and stress-related issues
  • The ethical duties under ER 8.3 to report
  • Employment issues including HIPAA and ADA requirements
  • How to handle a client of an impaired lawyer
  • Guidelines for policies, procedures and practical advice

“Don’t wait for a crisis, learn how to avoid one.”

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorFaculty

  • Chair: James P. O’Sullivan, Tiffany & Bosco, PA
  • Chair: Roberta L. Tepper, Esq., Lawyer Assistance Programs Director, State Bar of Arizona
  • Nancy Greenlee, Esq.
  • Denise M. Blommel, Denise M. Blommel, PLLC
  • Christine Colwell, Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP
  • Dr. Dan Gross, Sovereign Health of Phoenix

So, how do we even know these are important and life-threatening issues? You told us, in the State’s Bar’s most recent member survey. (You can read the results here, in “Stress, Ethics, Professionalism Top Attorney Concerns.”)

And in our November 2012 story about that year’s member survey, even as members exhibited some optimism about the profession, research still described problematic aspects that face attorneys, among them depression, substance abuse and career dissatisfaction.

Later in the same issue, we shared candid remarks from attorneys, many of whom find the practice’s challenges—including law school debt—debilitating.

And don’t even take your colleagues’ word for it. In a 2013 issue, Dr. Martin Blinder explained many of those challenges in his article “Psychic Trauma, Emotional Burnout and the Practice of Law.”

A tip of the hat to Friday’s panelists, who aim to be part of the solution.