Few were surprised last year when the ABA/Hazelden Betty Ford study on attorney substance abuse and mental illness showed that the problem is deep and wide. Twenty-one percent of licensed, employed attorneys are “problem drinkers,” the study showed. More than that, 28 percent, have depression. Few were surprised because for 40 years, Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers in Minnesota has paid attention.
LCL was incorporated in 1976 with a mission to address alcohol abuse and has since taken on other substance abuse and mental health. Last year it opened more than 400 new client files.
Its success and longevity largely are attributable to its staff, which has done everything it can to get the word out, said LCL board chair Daniel Payne.
LCL has a staff of four but also a membership of more than 300, many of whom are volunteers who provide thousands of hours of peer-to-peer mentoring, support and intervention if needed. Additionally, lawyers and family members have access to up to four sessions of counselling at no charge. LCL’s outreach and educational offerings result in new programming, like the recent “Common Experiences” to provide support on key issues, such as resilience or perfection, in a group setting.
Here’s what LCL doesn’t do: report you to the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board or the Board on Judicial Standards, or monitor lawyers who are on probation. It doesn’t share your secrets or suggest that you snap out of it.
It tries to mitigate the stigma and implicit bias that attaches to these perceived career-killers. After the Hazelden/Betty Ford report, the stigmas of these conditions began to abate and It became ok to seek help, said LCL executive director Joan Bibelhausen.
For some. Others still are afraid. “LCL is interested in collaborating with anybody to help reduce stigma,” Bibelhausen said. People fear that getting treatment could be used against them, so they don’t seek it out. “I don’t hear about [getting treatment resulting in consequences]. I hear about the fear of it happening,” she said.
LCL is available 24/7 at 1-866-525-6466 or 1-651-646-5590. It saves lives, careers and families, and that’s an outstanding service to the profession.