Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fit To Practice

The path of recovery from addiction can be a long and bumpy one, as demonstrated by a recent report of an Illinois Hearing Panel. The attorney had been placed on disability inactive status in 1996 as a result of problems associated with substance abuse and bipolar disorder. He was reinstated in 1998 but lapsed (an arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol and failure to attend therapy sessions) and was returned to disability inactive status. After several failed attempts at reinstatement, the hearing panel found that he is now fit for return to active practice with a series of conditions including a practice mentor for two years, no alcohol or drug use with random testing and compliance with a program of recovery. (Mike Frisch)


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Lawyers who steal client's funds are often alcoholics, suffer from mental illness, or are drug addicts or gambling addicts. As members of a self regulating profession, lawyers have an obligation to prevent other lawyers from stealing. Reluctance to report is often based on the ground of not "knowing" (as defined in the RPC) that a lawyer is an alcoholic, suffering from depression or an addict.

But often lawyers suspect that a member of the bar is impaired and at risk of stealing client funds or otherwise falling short of the minimum requirements for practicing law. In such cases, they ought to contact the Lawyers Concerned For Lawyers program.

The case reported above suggests that there can be hope for impaired lawyers provided they haven't stolen clients funds before intervention arrives.

Far from ruining a career, a lawyer who notifies Lawyers Concerned For Lawyer of her concern for a member of the bar may well save a career and more.

That is why I think the case reported above is good.

Posted by: Wick Chambers | Oct 24, 2007 7:49:25 AM

I am a 2L at the University of St. Thomas. My comment below is not regards in to this particular case, but I am exploring a related topic. I am interested in writing a law review article on happy hours in the legal profession, and the incentivization of alcohol use and alcoholism in the legal profession. I understand that there is quite a bit of scholarship out there on alcoholism, but I have yet to find anything on the happy hour culture in the profession. Does anyone have any suggestions for good sources for completing such an article? Obviously people outside of the legal profession attend happy hours, but it is my understanding that the legal profession, more than any other, sponsors and attends more "official" happy hours that comprise official social events for firm/ organization members. I would appreciate any input. Thanks!

Posted by: Monica Natarajan | Oct 25, 2007 6:00:12 PM

Monica--don't know if this link will help, but I'll pass it along:


Posted by: Mike Frisch | Oct 25, 2007 6:44:08 PM

I think it could be a great article; it is, IMO, an excellent topic, and I agree that the angle you add to it is one that isn't (or at least I haven't seen) developed already in the literature. --AC

Posted by: Childress | Oct 26, 2007 10:49:59 AM

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