Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : September 2010

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Whether an attorney suffers from depression, stress, chronic illness, overwhelming family issues, substance abuse, elder care burdens, competency concerns, financial woes or anything affecting his or her personal or professional well being, MSBA’s Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) is there, offering confidential help, guidance, comfort, support and direction. For the last three decades, the Association’s lawyer support service has bolstered attorneys experiencing difficulties, assisting them and serving as a lifeline for those in serious trouble.

“The Lawyer Assistance Program is the single most important benefit that we lawyers can provide to our fellow professionals,” stresses Thomas D. Murphy, MSBA President. “The volunteer attorneys who give unstintingly of their time to others in need, along with the professionals at the MSBA, are the hallmark of our Association serving its members.” Murphy plans to highlight LAP and the valuable support services it offers members throughout his presidency.

This valuable MSBA service has helped hundreds of lawyers over the years, yet many lawyers are still unaware of its existence. While LAP’s actual assistance is confidential, its existence is not, so Murphy is trying to “get the word out” to let all Maryland lawyers, judges and law students know about the comprehensive support it offers regardless of the problem. MSBA’s President hopes to create visibility and awareness within Maryland’s legal community so members needing help know where to turn.

"THE LAWYER
Assistance Program is the single most important benefit that we lawyers can provide to our fellow professionalsThe volunteer attorneys who give unstintingly of their time to others in need, along with the professionals at the MSBA, are the hallmark of our Association serving its members"

THOAMS D. MURPHY
MSBA President

“There are many Maryland lawyers who still don’t know we exist,” laments Jim Quinn, MSBA Director of the Lawyer Assistance Program. “Although we started as a lawyer counseling program for lawyers with substance abuse issues in 1981, we are now a full-service support network giving lawyers and law students confidential help with any problem, whether it involves stress, depression, addiction to prescription medication, substance abuse or anything that proves disruptive to their personal or professional life.”

Thus, LAP has initiated an extensive outreach effort throughout the state’s legal community to enhance its visibility and build awareness of the genuine confidential help it offers lawyers. In the last year, it has expanded its network to better serve attorneys hit hard by the recession and added a licensed social worker, Lisa Caplan, to enhance its comprehensive support services by focusing, holistically, on the concept of wellness. Caplan’s addition expands LAP’s counseling efforts to include everything from substance abuse to mental health issues. Catering to societal trends, LAP is adapting a broad-brushed approach, focusing on attorney mental and physical health and overall lifestyle changes to relieve stress.

“We will focus on wellness and fitness,” explains Caplan. This “holistic approach” covers a wide range of things, including nutrition, mental health issues, stress management and even family assistance. “The bottom line is that we all must look inward and take care of ourselves.”

“To be truly successful we must holistically take care of ourselves,” she adds. “If lawyers do not, their practices will suffer and their personal lives will suffer, and this very often leads to the use and abuse of prescription drugs and substances.” Unfortunately, this is a familiar scenario for LAP. People not taking care of themselves and not dealing with stress, which attorneys tend to do, “often start looking for a quick fix, whether it is popping a pill or using and abusing a substance like alcohol,” reports Quinn. “Increasingly, we are seeing a big problem with lawyers’ addiction to prescription medications as a means of coping.”

So LAP is on the offense, launching an awareness campaign to first, let attorneys know about the troubling trends of stress relief it is seeing and second, to get the word out that LAP is the first line of defense for lawyers. LAP has adapted a comprehensive umbrella approach; it will help attorneys with any type of support needed and “we will find the appropriate resource each individual needs,” pledges Quinn. “It is free and confidential. LAP is the first stop on the path to help and recovery. We urge attorneys to contact us.”

One of the thrusts of LAP’s outreach effort involves law students. Quinn has found that many of today’s law students are stressed out. “Law students still cannot find jobs yet face incredible student loans. They are very stressed out, and this is when depression sets in. We can help them navigate the system and get the help they need when they are troubled.”

So LAP has stepped up awareness at the state’s two law schools, making presentations at law school orientations and appearances throughout the year to reinforce LAP’s constant presence. “We want to let them know we are here as a confidential support network” echoes Caplan, “and that there is someplace to turn.”

But this outreach campaign is really directed to all Maryland lawyers. Today, many lawyers are stressed out and know it, and LAP is encouraging them to reach out and contact this valuable MSBA resource for support. In particular, Caplan says they are trying to connect with women attorneys who traditionally do not seek solace when in trouble. Quinn and Caplan hope her presence offers another level of assurance to all lawyers.

LAP 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 service, MSBA members need never feel alone – because they are not alone. We can help! Call LAP at (410) 685-7878, ext. 3041, (800) 492-1964 or (443) 703-3041.


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Publications : Bar Bulletin: September 2010

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