Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : August 2009


For the last 28 years, troubled lawyers have been turning to MSBA’s Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) for confidential help. This lawyer support service assists attorneys experiencing difficulties with everything from chemical dependency, depression, stress, burnout and chronic illness to poor law practice skills and competency issues. Now, LAP is fulfilling one of the most valuable roles it has ever performed – supporting attorneys who are truly overwhelmed by the repercussions of these tough economic times.

The down economy is hurting many lawyers – practitioners from large, mid-size and small law firms, solos and even law students who, as new admits, have sizeable student loans to pay and no job. This situation can trigger fear, worry, stress and anxiety, followed by depression and isolation and, for some attorneys, chemical abuse and potential suicide. MSBA’s LAP is receiving an alarming number of these types of calls from troubled lawyers and is very concerned.

Lawyers in trouble are urged to call LAP at (410) 685-7878, ext. 3041, (800) 492-1964 or (443) 703-3041 for confidential and immediate assistance and support. Visit the website here.

LAP Director Jim Quinn estimates that 15-17 percent of our members could be in trouble. “We are seeing more depression in the legal profession,” Quinn laments, attributing it to the worsening economy and legal market, and he is very disturbed over the rise in suicide calls. “Lawyers are at the top of the list for depression and suicide,” he reports. “They have certain ‘Type A’ personality traits that set them up for depression and chemical dependency.” Most attorneys strive to be “perfectionists and are under chronic stress and pressure to always win.”

When a New York lawyer executed his family and committed suicide in a Towson hotel last spring, the national media spotlight followed and an alarm sounded across Maryland’s legal community. While this case is extreme, it is likely the economy played a role, and the incident underscores the reality of the situation. That is why it is so important for lawyers to seek support when the first signs of trouble and depression surface. That is why troubled Maryland lawyers are encouraged to contact LAP.

Quinn and the LAP volunteer lawyer Committee members are asking attorneys and colleagues to seek confidential help for any attorney who appears to be struggling. “They need to talk to someone – a doctor, another attorney, their pastor, social worker, a relative, another support service – they need to talk to somebody,” he exclaims. “We are just one avenue.”

“By the time they reach me, many of the attorneys are desperate and nearly at the bottom,” he continues. When they reach out or are referred to Quinn, he individually sits down face-to-face with each attorney, has a confidential discussion and “comes up with a tailored plan for service/treatment options. I help them figure out the best solution and establish an accountability plan, then follow-up with each one.”

Over the years Quinn and his team of LAP volunteers have saved a number of lives and put many attorneys on the road to recovery. Unfortunately, they occasionally lose one, too.

Created as the Lawyer Counseling Service to aid attorneys undergoing difficulties with substance abuse in 1981, today MSBA’s LAP is a full support service network that helps troubled lawyers going through tough times. It serves as a lifeline to those in real trouble and helps them cope with the problems that are negatively impacting their professional and personal lives. With LAP’s personalized opportunities, MSBA members need never feel alone – because they are not alone. You are not alone. Call LAP at (410) 685-7878, ext. 3041, (800) 492-1964 or (443) 703-3041.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: August 2009

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