Using a program initially developed in the 1940s by DuPont and re-energized in the 1970s corporate workplace, Jim Quinn, who assumed the role of Director of the MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) following the retirement of Richard Vincent last year, is looking to revitalize the MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) to help more attorneys in the workplace.
Overworking, frustration and deadline pressures push attorneys to do their best, but often result in mental exhaustion. Here, confusion in accounts or paperwork can set in, leading to clerical errors and other problems down the line. And it is in this fact that Quinn seeks to draw upon his more than 25 years working in employee assistance programs to broaden LAP’s horizons.
“We have to look past Number One (substance abuse),” explains Quinn. “There is a wide range of problems.”
In the past, LAP focused on substance abuse as its main priority, but Quinn also sees need elsewhere. Problems range from gambling to relationships to financial difficulties, and Quinn wants to ensure that lawyers can feel free to call him about any problem they may encounter.
Job stress often leads lawyers to “mental health” issues arising from matters such as depression or an overwhelming workload. The long hours that attorneys endure puts pressure on the body and the mind.
One major challenge is to reach the families of attorneys, who must understand that LAP is here to help. “The person with the problem is many times the last to know they have the problem,” notes Quinn.
Many times, the family is “reluctant to contact LAP, worrying about jeopardizing the attorney’s reputation,” explains Quinn. “We (LAP) need to get around that obstacle and reach the family.” Quinn wants to let the families of attorneys know that they need to help. He has dealt with many incidents that affect the home life.
“We need to do a good job at selling LAP as an employee assistance program, a broad-brush program that fulfills all of the needs of the attorneys,” he says. “Attorneys are more than welcome to call at any time.” To this end, Quinn makes an effort at every opportunity to “wave the white flag” to garner attention for the program.
Whether it is at the MSBA Annual Meeting, Professionalism Course, solo events or through direct mailing and/or publications like the Bar Bulletin, Quinn is putting the program in the hands of the lawyers.
“Confidentiality and anonymity are the most important pieces of the LAP,” Quinn stresses. When contacted by either the attorney or a colleague, LAP reaches out to the attorney to see where they are able to help.
Self-referrals, colleagues and family are major ways that attorneys come into contact with LAP. The area law schools also refer students to LAP. Sometimes, the Attorney Grievance Commission will refer an attorney to LAP (though LAP does not refer attorneys to the Commission).
If it is determined that the attorney needs help, he or she is given the contact information of people that the LAP program has come to trust over the years. Quinn maintains a database of professionals who are willing and able to offer help. Quinn has also maintained his contacts from his previous work experience and, combining those with the existing contacts, has a wide range of options to help attorneys handle their problems.
“Our job is to direct them to the appropriate place, and follow up with the attorney,” he emphasizes.
Quinn has received tremendous support from the MSBA, the Lawyer Assistance Program Committee and the many volunteers who put in hours of their time to give the support to those in need. Quinn sees a continuing growth in the program, helping troubled attorneys to get back in stride.