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Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP)

How does the LAP work?

The LAP offers free and confidential clinical services on any issues that cause distress to D.C. Bar members, judges, and current D.C. law students. The problems may be related to work–life balance, career stress, relationships, grief/loss, depression, anxiety, substance use or more.

The services include:

  • Face-to-face clinical assessment, short-term counseling, and referral resources
  • Consultation with concerned others, such as employers, colleagues, or family members
  • Volunteer/peer mentor connection
  • Monitoring

To speak with a LAP counselor or schedule an intake appointment call 202-347-3131 or email [email protected]

If I seek help, is it actually confidential?

Absolutely! Confidentiality and respect for privacy are the foundations of the program. The same therapist–client privilege applies that would for any mental health clinician.

Federal and local law prohibit the disclosure of any information pertaining to program participants, including their identity. The Lawyer Assistance Program will not disclose any information about lawyers, law students, or judges who seek its assistance to the Bar, to any entity affiliated with the Bar, or to anyone else. LAP volunteers (a lawyer in recovery providing peer support to other lawyers) are deemed to have lawyer–client confidentiality under Rule 1.6(i) of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct.

The only exceptions are: (1) to avert a serious, imminent threat to your health or safety or that of another person and (2) to comply with legal obligations such as child abuse and elder abuse. 

What is the LAP’s relationship with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC)?

The LAP is not affiliated in any way with ODC. The LAP is a confidential and separate program from discipline and the offices themselves are separate from ODC, BPR, and the courts. All communications with LAP are completely confidential and will not be disclosed to any person, agency, or organization without the participant’s explicit written authorization.

How can a legal employer take advantage of the Lawyers Assistance Program?

The LAP can be a resource to legal employers in many ways. The LAP offers management consultation and provides guidance and resources when there are concerns about an attorney’s performance or mental health. LAP staff also offer consultation to legal employers and law schools on best practices to encourage well-being. 

The program also offers free educational presentations to firms, judges, nonprofits, law schools, and other related organizations in the D.C. metropolitan area. The goal of the presentations is to raise awareness of LAP services and the impact that mental health, substance use, and well-being issues have on the legal profession. Programs can be standardized or specially designed for your group. Some programs may qualify for Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits.

I don’t have an alcohol or drug problem and I’m not depressed. I’m just stressed. Can the LAP help?

The LAP offers clinical services related to any problems that impact well-being, and stress in any realm is worth addressing. The hope is that attorneys seek help proactively before the problem becomes more serious. Chronic stress can lead to significant physical and mental health issues. Often talking to a neutral person, who can help assess the problem and identify strategies and resources, can make a difference. 

No issue is too small. The earlier someone gets help, the better. No lawyer should feel alone in their struggle. Do not hesitate to call us at 202-347-3131 or email at [email protected].

I am worried about a colleague . . . what can I do?

All LAP staff are licensed mental health professionals who will gladly consult with you about what actions, if any, are necessary and appropriate. LAP staff can provide guidance on effective techniques for communicating your concerns as well as resources that may be available for the colleague. Call us at 202-347-3131 to discuss.

 Learn how to provide support. Know the warning signs of suicide

If I seek help while in law school, will it impact my bar admission?

The D.C. Court of Appeals Committee on Admissions (COA) does not require applicants to divulge information about treatment or counseling for mental health/addiction issues per se. Your LAP participation will not be reported to the COA. If you have specific questions about the character and fitness questions on the application to the D.C. Bar, please contact us. The ultimate goal of the admissions process is to ensure competence; seeking help for a mental health problem is an argument for competence, not against. Remember, there is nothing more important than your health.

As a reminder, all inquiries with the LAP are strictly confidential under the law. The LAP will NOT disclose any identifying information, without the student’s written permission, to law schools, the D.C. Bar, or anyone else without the student’s explicit permission.

If you have questions about the character and fitness portion of your Bar application, please give us a confidential call at 202-347-3131.

What if I am in crisis?

For a medical or psychiatric emergency, dial 9-1-1. If you are having suicidal thoughts or concerned about someone else, dial 9-8-8, for the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals in the United States.