While the NCBA does so many wonderful things for its members and the community by providing a variety of social, networking and educational events, as well as community outreach programs and charitable opportunities, it is also dedicated to providing necessary support to our members going through difficult personal issues.
As attorneys, we are in a unique and advantageous position to use our knowledge and application of the law to help others. It is an honorable profession that requires the utmost care in handling emotionally charged situations, the various needs of our individual clients, and very demanding schedules, among other stresses inherent in the practice of law. While we are proud of what we do, it can take its toll on our mental health.
Studies of lawyers and articles published in peer reviewed journals report that the rates of alcoholism, addiction and depression among attorneys and law students are substantially higher than the general population. This is an issue that the Nassau County Bar Association is concerned about and is committed to addressing. Recognizing some of the problems our members as well as their peers and loved ones might face, the NCBA provides free and confidential assistance to attorneys, members of the judiciary, law students and graduates, and their family members through the Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP).
NCBA members with problems relating to alcohol, drugs, gambling, depression, and other emotional and behavioral issues can take advantage of free, confidential services through LAP. Confidentiality is protected by Judiciary Law Section 499 in which all LAP communications are privileged pursuant to (expressly coexistent with attorney-client privilege) New York Rule of Professional Conduct 8.3(c)(2), which exempts LAP personnel from mandatory reporting requirements.
LAP services include consultation, evaluation and assessment, supportive counseling, early identification, peer support, stress management, intervention and motivation, treatment referrals, support for those concerned about an attorney with problems, closing a law practice, and voluntary and court-appointed monitoring.
For the last eleven years, LAP has hosted an Annual 12-Step Retreat for lawyers in recovery to provide a safe environment for those new to recovery to get education and peer support. More than 200 attorneys have participated in the NCBA Annual LAP Retreat since its inception. Scholarships are available if needed. In addition, Mindfulness Yoga is offered weekly at the NCBA, and stay tuned for upcoming lawyer well-being and other mindfulness events.
Members of the NCBA Lawyer Assistance Committee engage in a variety of activities, including, but not limited to, attending monthly meetings, speaking at law schools, presenting at CLE programs, and providing support to individual peers in need. It is a great outlet for members to help their colleagues while also helping themselves.
Confidential assistance is available. Beth Eckhardt, Director of the Lawyer Assistance Program, is a licensed mental health professional. She and members of the Lawyer Assistance Program are committed to helping those in the legal profession who are struggling. Contact Beth directly at (516) 512-2618, via the confidential helpline at (800) 408-6222, or at LAP@nassaubar.org.
“Making the call is often the most difficult step for attorneys,” says Eckhardt. “Attorneys often see themselves as the problem solvers, making it difficult to ask for help with their own problems. We know that reaching out early can help reduce the toll that substance abuse, depression and anxiety can have on personal and professional well-being.”
Funding for LAP is provided by the NYS Office of Court Administration and the WE CARE Fund, a part of the Nassau Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the Nassau County Bar Association.