The Impaired Lawyer and COVID-19: Strategies for Encouraging Attorneys to Seek Help and Responding Appropriately If They Don't
Created on October 02, 2020
COVID-19 has heightened the risk of substance abuse by attorneys, due in large part to increased isolation and stress coupled with less “face time” and visibility into personal behaviors while working remotely. Attorneys are also struggling with increased levels of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other behavioral health issues. Messages from leadership can sometimes make the problem even worse. Leaders sometimes send messages that discourage attorneys from acknowledging that they are struggling with a mental health or substance use problem. In the firm/corporate culture, acknowledging vulnerability may be viewed as a weakness rather than a strength.
This program, presented by Jonathan Segal of Duane Morris and Patrick Krill, an attorney licensed and board-certified alcohol and drug counselor, will focus on systemic approaches that law firms and other employers should take to make it more likely that an attorney with substance abuse or other behavioral health issues will step forward and seek help, and will also explore how to respond to attorneys who do voluntarily seek help. Items to be discussed include possible warning signs of behavioral health struggles, by both on-site and remote workers; legal, ethical, business, and human risks of ignoring potential behavioral health struggles; and ADA, privacy, and other legal protections that must be considered in addressing potential or acknowledged behavioral health issues.
- Appreciate the degree to which COVID-19 has increased the potential for attorney impairment due not only to substance abuse but also to depression, anxiety, and PTSD
- Identify the rights, risks, and responsibilities of firms and other employers in addressing actual or potential behavioral health issues
- Develop strategies for getting help, or for encouraging an employee or colleague to get help
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