September 13, 2019

Ethical and Practical Issues in Dealing with Lawyer Impairment and Disability

Lawyer well-being and impairment have become topics of increasing focus. As of 2016, the rate of attorney depression and substance use disorder, each, were twice that of the general population. The 2017 report of the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being described significant deficiencies in wellness within the profession, mobilizing bar associations to conduct further research and provide both (1) wellness tools and (2) tools to help identify and address impairment. All of the foregoing can be helpful to an individual lawyer’s ethical, professional, and even substantive practice of law, and, ultimately, to the business of law and to public confidence in the profession, as the crucial institution it is in our society. However, the latter tasks – identifying and addressing lawyer impairment – may have their own ethical/professionalism issues and may be susceptible to mishandling, thereby amplifying those potential issues.