General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionMagazine

Volume 17, Number 1
January/February 2000

Who Is "Bill W."?


Some of you may have noticed that at every ABA Annual Meeting and Midyear Meeting there are regularly scheduled activities described as "Meetings of the 'Friends of Bill W." Those of you who have noticed this scheduled activity may have wondered who Bill W. is and why he keeps having these meetings. (He is Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, who attended law school, but never took a bar examination, and identified himself as a stockbroker.)

Some of you also may have noticed that Bill W. is also having meetings on cruise ships, in resort hotels, airports, and elsewhere. You may be surprised to learn that these regularly scheduled meetings are for those of us who wish to be involved in a recovery program based on the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, designed to make a happy, joyous, and free life-style a reality for those who wish to participate.

At each ABA meeting site (including the 2000 Midyear Meeting in Dallas), these meetings are staffed and chaired by local participating lawyers and judges. The meetings are open to all who wish to participate, and the message brings hope to lawyers and their family members-face to face in very honest sharing about each participant's own experience, strength, and hope. The focus is on understanding, acceptance, and recovery.

Alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental health problems are afflictions that affect a great number of professionals, including lawyers and judges. Reports now estimate that while 10 percent of the general population has problems with alcohol abuse, anywhere from 15 to 18 percent of the lawyer population battles the same problem.

Even if you don't fall into that category, perhaps you are a managing partner of a law firm faced with the loss of a valued associate or partner. If so, you are also facing potential damage claims that may arise from his or her negligence and your own negligence in not addressing these issues in a timely manner.

The Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP) offers services for lawyers experiencing stress, depression, and other mental health problems. Its primary goal is to advance the legal community's knowledge of impairments facing lawyers and its response to those issues.

Today, all 50 states have developed lawyer assistance programs or committees focused on quality of life issues that include addictions and mental health problems like depression. These programs are confidential and employ the use of intervention, peer counseling, and referrals for additional help.

For more information, visit CoLAP's website at, or call 312/988-5359.

Do you or someone you know have a problem with alcohol, drugs, depression or other mental health problems? There is help. Place a confidential call to Donna Spilis at the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and you will be referred to a program in your area. Call 312/988-5359.

John W. Clark, Jr., is a solo, general practitioner in Dallas. He is a former chair of the ABA General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division.

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