To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:
On May 5, the Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) will mark 14 years of service to the legal community in New York City. LAP is a free, confidential counseling service for attorneys (including those who have been suspended and disbarred), judges, law students, and their family members struggling with alcohol or drug abuse as well as other addictions and mental health issues. The program is run by Eileen Travis, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
As you might expect, given the economy and the uncertainties within the legal profession, LAP has been busy over the past few years. Last year, LAP received 331 referrals, 26 percent more than the year before. This year to date, LAP has gotten 99 referrals, up 120 percent from this time last year. While most calls involve alcoholism and/or drug addiction, there has been a substantial increase in mental health issues as well.
The services provided by LAP are free and completely confidential. Where appropriate, LAP may refer clients to psychiatrists, therapists, agencies, or hospitals. LAP checks on availability and insurance coverage and, in instances when a client lacks insurance or the resources to pay for services, finds providers willing to work pro bono.
LAP could not operate without the support of the LAP Committee, chaired by Meredith Heller, and volunteers who give their time to provide peer support and monitoring, as well as to do outreach through presentations. In 2011, LAP began a Gambler’s Anonymous meeting, run by a volunteer attorney recovering from compulsive gambling. In 2012, LAP and the committee provided 27 presentations to newly admitted attorneys, law students, judges and attorneys, reaching approximately 4,000 individuals. There has been an increase in requests for presentations, and in the next few months LAP will be holding programs at Columbia Law School, the NYU School of Law, the CUNY School of Law, Brooklyn Law School and at the Brooklyn Bar Association.
When a lawyer needs to take time away from work to focus on personal issues, the City Bar can provide assistance in addition to counseling. The City Bar’s Legal Referral Service (LRS), which I wrote about last month, has attorneys in over 100 areas of law who can step in on a temporary or ongoing basis so clients are not left in the lurch. This is especially helpful, of course, for solos or small-firm practitioners. LRS can also find someone to represent a lawyer in disciplinary proceedings, to help a lawyer keep his or her license or get it reinstated.
We recognize the courage it takes to admit to a problem and seek help. No matter what the problem, we never turn anyone away and we remain committed to do our best to serve the legal community and the public.
The Lawyer Assistance Program’s Confidential Helpline can be reached at (212) 302-5787.
Carey R. Dunne