Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP) Highlights

2021

June

The Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs continues to meet monthly to discuss work plans and ongoing projects.  At this month’s meeting, the Commission discussed and considered its position regarding several proposed Resolutions filed for consideration by the House of Delegates at the 2021 Annual Meeting. Specifically, the Commission voted to support Resolution 102, urging members of the legal profession to devote at least twenty hours each year to efforts that advance and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession, Resolution 602, urging bar associations, specialty bar associations, and legal employers to develop and implement policies and practices for the safe return to the workplace to address the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on people of color, women, individuals with disabilities, individuals who identify as LGBTQ+, caregivers, and seniors and Resolution 603, encouraging bar associations and legal employers to develop and implement policies and best practices for the safe and effective return to the workplace as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Commission and its Law School Committee developed and submitted comments to the Council of the ABA Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar in response to the May 25, 2021, Notice and Comment posted by the Council regarding proposed revisions to Standards 205, 206, 303, 507 and 508 of the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools.  The Council’s proposed revisions to Standards 303 and 503 incorporate several of the Commission’s recommendations submitted to the Council regarding proposed revisions to the Standards circulated in March 2021.  The ABA Coordinating Group on Practice Forward joined the Commission and supported the comments provided to the Council.

Planning is underway for the Commission’s 2021 National Conference for Lawyer Assistance Programs, Writing the LAP Story: Reset, Recover, Renew, scheduled to be held virtually September 21-23, 2021. This annual event will feature educational programs with proficient speakers and cutting-edge topics addressing mental health issues, substance use disorders and well-being of the legal profession. 

The Commission will be hosting virtual Friends of Bill meetings in conjunction with the ABA 2021 Annual Meeting.  Please see the 2021 ABA Annual Meeting Schedule listing the specific dates and times of the Friends of Bill meetings.

April  

On April 22, 2021, the Commission hosted the 3rd Annual Well-Being Pledge Workshop for Pledge signatories. Over 190 registrants participated in the Workshop.  ABA President Trish Refo delivered opening remarks that focused ABA Coordinating Group on Practice Forward work to help legal professionals meet the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.

The Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and its subcommittees continue to meet monthly via Zoom to discuss work plans and several ongoing projects.  At its April meeting, the Commission discussed the Standing Committee on Professional Regulation’s comment draft proposed amendments to ABA Model Rule for Registration of In-House Counsel. The Commission continues to collect the 2021 Well-Being Pledge Recommitment Forms from Pledge signatories. The deadline for submitting the 2021 Recommitment Forms was extended to May 14, 2021. 

The Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs continues to work on the joint initiative project with the Standing Committee on Professionalism, the Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility and the Practice Forward Coordinating Group to develop comments to address the subject of lawyer well-being and competence in the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct.

Commissioner Janet Stearns, Dean of Students at the University of Miami School of Law and CoLAP Law Student Liaison Ayat Nizam, 3L and Dual JD at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law wrote an article detailing the important work being done to revise the ABA Standards and Rules for Approval of Law Schools to address critical issues of law student well-being.  Read their article on the ABA for Law Students blog.

CoLAP’s traditional staff team has been Lead Senior Counsel Theresa Gronkiewicz and Program Specialist Sharon O’Connell.  Upon the departure of Sharon on April 23, 2021, Associate Counsel Stephanie Custard has joined the CoLAP team as co-counsel with Theresa, and CPR is actively recruiting Sharon’s replacement.  Other staff members of the CPR and Legal Services staff are collaborating to fill the gap to ensure that CoLAP has a seamless experience during the transition. 

March

In response to the Council of the ABA Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar Notice and Comment, the Commission and its Law School Committee developed comments to submit to the Council of the Section regarding proposed revisions to Standard 303 and Standard 508.  The Commission has been advocating revisions to the Standards to include well-being for several years. Their last effort was a June 2020 letter to the Council outlining the mental health challenges law students are facing and urging the Council to consider for its 2020-2021 Agenda revisions to the Standards to include well-being as a fundamental learning outcome and ensure law student services include well-being resources. The Council recognized the concerns outlined by the Commission and revised Standard 508 to add law student well-being resources to the list of support services listed in Standard 508.  The revisions to Standard 508 also include new Interpretations to define “reasonable access” to these services.

The ABA Well-Being Pledge continues to generate strong interest among legal employers. To date, over 200 legal employers have committee to the Pledge. Each year, Pledge Signatories are asked to recommitment their support for the Pledge and its seven-step framework.  The Commission distributed the 2021 Recommitment Form in a new electronic format, asking Pledge Signatories to submit their recommitment by April 16, 2021. 

The Commission and its Well-Being Committee is planning to host the 3rd Annual Well-Being Pledge Workshop on April 22, 2021. This virtual event for Pledge Signatories offers an opportunity to compare notes, share experiences and learn about well-being initiatives that support the Pledge framework. The 2021 Workshop program will include discussions about the intersection between well-being and diversity, inclusion, and equity issues, initiatives to de-emphasize the expectation of alcohol, developing written, proactive policies to promote well-being and developments in the well-being movements.

The Commission partnered with the Institute for Well-Being in Law, to sponsor the 2nd annual Well-Being Week in Law, May 3-7, 2021. Well-Being Week in Law, created to take place the first week in May to align with Mental Health Awareness Month, is designed to raise awareness about mental health and encourage action across the legal profession to improve the well-being of all legal professionals and their support teams.  Visit the Well-Being Week in Law website to learn more about programs, resources and activities.

Commission Chair Tish Vincent and CoLAP Counsel Theresa Gronkiewicz participated in a Roundtable on March 23, 2021, for members of the legal community hosted by PREVENTS, a Federal inter-agency Task Force. PREVENTS aims to change the culture around mental health and implement an all-nation effort to prevent suicide, focusing on Veterans and other high-risk communities.   Leadership from various organizations participated in the Roundtable to share their knowledge, experiences, best practices, and support for PREVENTS’ mission.

February

The Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP) was a co-sponsor of Resolution 300A, presented by the ABA Coordinating Group on Practice Forward at the 2021 Midyear Meeting, which encourages all stakeholders in the legal profession to create and distribute policies and resources aimed at advancing well-being in the legal profession, and to promote the use of these policies and resources.  CoLAP Chair Tish Vincent, liaison to the Practice Forward Group, gave remarks in support of Resolution 300A to the members of the House. Resolution 300A was adopted by unanimous vote.  

The Commission conducted a business meeting in conjunction with the ABA 2021 Midyear Meeting. A large part of the meeting was dedicated to strategic planning.  

The Commission’s well-being initiatives continue to thrive and grow. To date, close to 200 legal employers, including law firms, corporate entities, government agencies, law schools, and bar associations have committed to the Pledge. The Commission is planning the 3rd annual Pledge Workshop which will be a virtual event, rescheduled to take place on April 22, 2021. This half-day event will include educational programming, discussions, and networking opportunities for pledge signatories to share ideas and resources to assist them to implement the Pledge seven-step framework. The ABA Well-Being Campaign, and Pledge has become one of the ABA’s strongest member programs, as evidenced by its reach and impact.  

January

The Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs is planning its 2021 National Conference on Lawyer Assistance Programs scheduled to be held September 21-23, 2021. The theme of the 2021 Conference is Writing the LAP Story: Reset, Recover, Renew. The Commission Conference Planning Committee is soliciting program proposals featuring proficient speakers and cutting-edge topics related to mental health, substance use disorders and well-being of the legal profession.  The deadline for submitting a program proposal is February 15, 2021. For the Instructions and Guidelines to submit a proposal, visit website.

The Commission’s well-being initiatives continue to thrive and grow. The Commission has begun planning the 3rd annual Pledge Virtual Workshop for Pledge Signatories scheduled to take place on March 25, 2021. This half-day event will include educational programming, discussions, and networking opportunities for pledge signatories to share ideas and resources to assist them in implementing the Pledge’s seven-step framework. Additionally, the Commission is redesigning the annual 2021 Pledge Recommitment Forms and plans to send those out to Pledge Signatories next month. The Well-Being Campaign, including the Pledge has become one of the ABA’s strongest member programs, as evidenced by its reach and impact. To date, close to 200 legal employers - law firms, corporate entities, government agencies, law schools, and bar associations- have committed to the Pledge.

The Commission continues to maintain a curated list of mental health resources to assist members of the legal profession in understanding and prioritizing their mental health, well-being, and recovery as they cope with the many challenges they are facing in their professional and personal lives. To access the Commission’s Mental Resources visit website.