Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : June 2005

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WORK/LIFE
SUPPORT

MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program

"The Choice is Yours!"
By Carol P. Waldhauser

The Baltimore County Bar Association (BCBA) recently honored Jay D. Miller, Chair of the BCBA Lawyer Assistance Committee, as this year’s recipient of the BCBA’s prestigious Judith P. Ritchey Award.

The award is given annually by the BCBA to an individual member who “has a significant impact on the local Bar; is largely unrecognized for his/her efforts; and adds to the proficiency, respect and reputation of the Baltimore County Bar Association.”

Miller’s colleagues on the BCBA Lawyer Assistance Committee are in agreement with the association’s choice for this year’s recipient. “Jay’s efforts as long-standing Chair of our local Lawyer Assistance Committee makes him so very deserving of this award,” says Committee member Phillip Tirabassi. Conversely, and with much humility, Mr. Miller credits the success of the Baltimore County Lawyer Assistance Committee to its members.

The BCBA Lawyer Assistance Committee has founded in 1988, primarily as a direct result of the consistent efforts of then-BCBA President (and longstanding Chair of the MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program) Thomas G. Bodie, Esquire. Since that time, the Committee has grown from about eight members to more than 20 today. Many attribute this growth to the strong leadership of Jay Miller.

Unfortunately, some individuals who need assistance are not aware that they have a choice. Many in the legal profession are well aware that the MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program is a confidential service that provides information and meaningful assistance to judges, lawyers, law students, staff and families within the state’s legal community. But others in the same legal community do not know that peer support is available through their local Bar Associations, too.

In fact, the Bar Association of Montgomery County’s Lawyer Assistance Program preceded that of the State Bar. Much if not all of the credit for the early success of Montgomery County’s program is attributed to the unrelenting yet humble efforts of the Honorable James S. McAuliffe, Jr. Judge McAuliffe was also instrumental also in the forming of the MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program. Today, their committee is led by attorney Richard D. London and is one of the strongest Lawyer Assistance Committees in the State of Maryland.

Another proactive local lawyer assistance committee is that of the Prince George’s County Bar Association (PGCBA); James Flynn, Esquire, has served as its effective chair for more than a decade. “It was started by fellow named George Wilkinson, and I helped him out for a good while,” Flynn explains of the committee’s early days. “George Wilkinson was a kind and humble man who used to be on the MSBA’s Lawyer Assistance Committee and practiced in Hyattsville. Once his wife passed away, he went into the Catholic Seminary and I just took over.”

Other local bar associations that offer thriving lawyer assistance programs include the Bar Association of Baltimore City (Charles H. Dorsey, III, Esquire, Chair) and the newly-formed Howard County Bar Association committee, co-chaired by Rubin I. Hamby, Esquire, and Mark J. Muffoletto, Esquire.

These programs and their efforts are imperative because an attorney may feel more comfortable working with his or her local bar’s Lawyer Assistance Committee; on the other hand, an individual may prefer to seek initial assistance through the State Bar. Either way, the legal professional has an option for support, no matter the problem.

Today, the MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program and the local committees do not focus solely on drugs and/or alcohol; rather, they are in place to assist an attorney, judge, law student, staff or family member on any issue that directly affects the attorneys’ quality of life and quality of work.

The Maryland Annotated Code, Business Occupations and Professions, Section 10-502 (a), defines lawyer assistance as:

…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: (1) 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.

These volunteers stand ready to assist the trained office staff of the MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program or their local bar committees with the following goal:

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 physical health problems. Together they are committed in developing and maintaining effective problem-solving for the individual and to create a workplace atmosphere that encourages profession growth and excellence.

Again, the MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Jay D. Miller and the entire BCBA Lawyer Assistance Program, as well as all of the local committees that are truly unsung heroes. They do together what an individual cannot do alone.

If you would like to start a Lawyer Assistance Committee within your local or specialty bar association or would like additional information on becoming a member of either the MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program or a local bar, or simply want more information on this topic and other quality-of-life issues, contact cwaldhauser@msba.org or call (410) 685-7878, ext. 3041.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: June, 2005

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