Help for Lawyers
JCJ offers intervention assistance.
The demanding practice of law can significantly increase a lawyer’s risk of developing mental health and substance use problems. Left untreated, these illnesses can lead to behaviors that are disruptive to your courtroom and harmful to their clients. The earlier a lawyer receives assistance, the greater the likelihood that treatment will be effective, thereby preventing professional impairment and restoring them to health and well-being.
Your call may save a life and help preserve the integrity of the bench and bar. Our staff will answer your questions, provide information and assist in the development of an approach that will have the greatest likelihood of successfully encouraging the lawyer to accept our help. Your call is confidential and does not obligate you to take any action.
Why Are Lawyers Reluctant to Seek Help for Themselves?
- Changes in brain structure and function often prevent lawyers from having insight into their own mental health or substance use issues.
- Many fear that negative career consequences or damage to their reputation will occur if they seek help. On the contrary, by not seeking and receiving the assistance they need, their career and health will certainly suffer.
- Because they make a career out of solving other peoples’ problems, lawyers mistakenly believe that they are able to solve their own mental health and substance use problems.
What is My Duty to Report? What About Confidentiality?
We are a self-regulating profession with a duty to promote the administration of justice and preserve the integrity of the organized Bench and Bar. Canon 2 of the Pennsylvania Code of Judicial Conduct indicates that “appropriate action” must be taken if impairment of a lawyer or judge is suspected. Such action may include referral to a lawyer or judicial assistance program (such as Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers or Judges Concerned for Judges):
Rule 2.14 Disability and Impairment
“A judge having a reasonable belief that the performance of a lawyer or another judge is impaired by drugs or alcohol, or by a mental, emotional, or physical condition, shall take appropriate action, which may include a confidential referral to a lawyer or judicial assistance program. Comment:
(1) ‘‘Appropriate action’’ means action intended and reasonably likely to help the judge or lawyer in question address the problem and prevent harm to the justice system. Depending upon the circumstances, appropriate action may include but is not limited to speaking directly to the impaired person, notifying an individual with supervisory responsibility over the impaired person, or making a referral to an assistance program.
(2) Taking or initiating corrective action by way of referral to an assistance program may satisfy a judge’s responsibility under this Rule. Assistance programs have many approaches for offering help to impaired judges and lawyers, such as intervention, counseling, or referral to appropriate health care professionals. Depending upon the gravity of the conduct that has come to the judge’s attention, however, the judge may be required to take other action, such as reporting the impaired judge or lawyer to the appropriate authority, agency, or body.”
You may be faced with the decision of whether or not to report an attorney’s professional misconduct to disciplinary authorities. Although JCJ cannot advise you in these matters, we can put you in touch with an ethics lawyer who can assist you in making an informed decision about whether or not to report. JCJ does not report its callers or clients to any agency, nor do we perform drug or alcohol testing or monitoring. Our assistance is confidential.
Dangerous Myths that Keep People Sick
- Judges are immune from mental health or substance use issues.
- Addiction is a ‘moral’ issue.
- It will get better eventually.
- Just cheer up and get over it. He or she can ‘will’ themselves out of it.
- It is none of my business. If their conduct does not affect me or my courtroom, it is not my problem.
- If I approach my colleague, I will jeopardize my relationship with him or her.
- We should not discuss these matters for fear of ruining my colleague’s reputation and career.
Do not sit idly by while a colleague’s struggles harm their health and professionalism.
The only ‘wrong’ thing you can do is nothing!