Lawyer Assistance Program: History and Mission
In June 1981 the D.C. Bar Board of Governors established the Special Committee on Alcohol Abuse in order to develop and implement a program to assist lawyers struggling with alcohol impairment. The D.C. Bar Special Committee consisted of nine members who reviewed similar programs operated by twenty–seven other state bars (California had established the first such program for lawyers in 1973) and thirty–three local bars. Following this review, the Special Committee on Alcohol Abuse recommended the creation of a nonprofit charitable corporation to assist D.C.–licensed lawyers with accessing treatment for substance abuse. The nonprofit charitable corporation, called APAL, inc. (“APAL”) which stood for Assistance Program for Alcoholism among Lawyers, was staffed by volunteers who worked to help D.C.–licensed impaired lawyers to access treatment and 12–step support groups.
In 1985 the Board of Governors approved the creation of the Bar’s own program to offer a broader array of services to a broader clientele. The clientele included lawyers and judges, and law students (discussed in greater detail in Section 2, infra). The Lawyer Counseling Program (“LCP”) and the Lawyer Counseling Committee (“LCC”) were created to replace APAL. The program was modeled on employee assistance programs which were increasingly being adopted by private and public sector employers in order to respond to the needs of their employees.
In the spring of 2007, at the request of the LCP and the LCC, the Board of Governors voted to change the name of the LCP and the LCC to their current names: the Lawyer Assistance Program and the Lawyer Assistance Committee. Among other reasons, it was believed that the name “Lawyer Assistance” was more aligned with the services offered than the term “Lawyer Counseling” had been, and would facilitate greater use of the D.C. Bar’s services by attorneys struggling with various impairments.
Mission and Services Offered
The LAP offers comprehensive assessment, short term counseling sessions and referral services for lawyers licensed in the District of Columbia, judges serving on courts in the District of Columbia, and students attending law school in the District of Columbia. The services offered by the LAP address a wide variety of presenting issues such as mental health problems, relationship problems, and stress management in addition to substance abuse and other addictions. The services include, but are not limited to:
- comprehensive assessment for substance abuse and mental health problems
- short term problem–solving sessions
- consultations with concerned others, such as employers or family members
- connection with LAP volunteers for support and mentoring
- intervention planning and implementation
- financial assistance for treatment
- presentations on impairment–related topics
- referral to local, regional or national treatment resources and 12 step support group meetings extended follow–up
- monitoring of mandatory urine screening results and self-help attendance
- lending library of books and educational materials
- outreach to law schools, law firms, agencies and courts located in the District of Columbia
The LAP also conducts meetings and seminars throughout the year, including training seminars for attorney volunteers.
The LAP has a full–time manager, one full–time senior counselor, and one part-time senior counselor. It is supported by the Lawyer Assistance Committee (LAC).The LAC is a standing D.C. Bar committee whose membership includes fifteen lawyer members and two non–lawyer members. The LAP also draws upon the skills and experience of numerous attorney volunteers.