September 19, 2018

Intervention and Impairment Assistance

Those lawyer disciplinary counsel and others involved in the lawyer regulation system who are charged with identifying and managing cognitively impaired lawyers, including senior lawyers, observe that the affected practitioner is often the last to realize or acknowledge the existence of a problem.  Self-reporting of cognitive impairment of active lawyers is rare.  In addition to regulators, colleagues, clients and family members often find themselves in the position of identifying problems. This is a critical first step toward utilizing an interventional approach.

In a growing number of states, lawyer and judicial assistance programs, traditionally focused on addressing substance abuse and other mental health matters, are increasingly focused on age-related cognitive impairment issues.   In several jurisdictions, multi-disciplinary teams of lawyer assistance staff, disciplinary counsel and mental health professionals are working together to address age-related cognitive impairment. These  teams work toward a transition out of practice that  preserves the lawyer’s reputation and dignity while protecting clients.   Close colleagues and family members are also often engaged in this process. 

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