August 04, 2017

ABA President responds to New York Times article "The Lawyer, The Addict"

Dear Editor:

Thank you for spotlighting (The Lawyer, the Addict, Business July 16) a much-overlooked and very important concern in the legal profession — lawyer addiction and substance abuse. The American Bar Association agrees with the premise of the writer’s very moving story that overuse of alcohol and other substances by lawyers should be openly discussed and addressed.

I am disappointed, however, that the writer chose to minimize the ABA’s efforts to combat lawyer addiction. For more than a quarter of a century, we have encouraged development and strongly supported state-based lawyer-assistance programs, which serve as front-line fighters to combat substance abuse. The landmark ABA-Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation study of February 2016 determined the most common barriers for lawyers to seek help were fear of others finding out and general concerns about confidentiality.

To provide another tool to the fight, the ABA model rule noted in the story calls on states to require mandatory training for mental health and substance use disorders and complements a wealth of programs, including online training, to educate the legal profession concerning alcoholism, chemical dependencies, stress, depression and other emotional health issues. In addition, six ABA entities are working with other national organizations, including the Conference of Chief Justices, to change the culture of the legal profession in ways that improve the mental health and well-being of those within it.

For further information visit the Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs website.

Linda A. Klein, president
American Bar Association