Studies show that lawyers are at a substantially greater risk of substance abuse and poor mental health as compared with the general population. This can be attributable to a number of occupational hazards associated with practice of law including its sedentary nature, long hours, stress, adversity, competition for work, uncivil adversaries, difficult clients, etc.
Alcohol and drug addiction can lead to serious attorney disciplinary problems. The public and the legal profession suffer when the attorney disciplinary process has to deal with substance abuse issues. By the time the bar learns an attorney is addicted to alcohol or other drugs, it is more likely than not that the abuse has already harmed someone. The best way of dealing with substance abuse is prevention and, if that fails, finding help for lawyers who are addicted to alcohol or other drugs sooner rather than later.
This seminar focuses on the ethical implications when a lawyer reasonably believes that another lawyer or judge is suffering from substance abuse or a mental condition that could materially affect their ability to practice law.
James M. McCauley is the Ethics Counsel for the Virginia State Bar. He serves as staff liaison to the Virginia State Bar’s Standing Committee on Legal Ethics and manages the staff in the Legal Ethics Department and the Legal Ethics Hotline. Mr. McCauley served on the faculty of the Virginia State Bar’s Mandatory Professionalism Course from 2004-2010. For 15 years Mr. McCauley taught Professional Responsibility at the T.C. Williams School of Law in Richmond, Virginia and served on the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Legal Ethics and Professionalism from 2008-2011. In 2018, Mr. McCauley was elected “Leader of the Year” in the Virginia Lawyers Weekly “Leaders in the Law” awards program. He serves on the Planning Committee for the ABA’s Center for Professional Responsibility Annual Conference and the Lawyer Advertising Committee for the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers. Mr. McCauley is a Fellow of the Virginia Law Foundation and American Bar Foundation. He is also on the Board of Directors for the Virginia Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program (VJLAP).
Jim Leffler is a Licensed Professional Counselor who joined Lawyers Helping Lawyers (now Virginia Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program) as the Mental Health Services Coordinator in January 2004. He assumed the role of Executive Director in December 2005. He relinquished the role of Executive Director to become Clinical in August 2015. Mr. Leffler has extensive experience in the field of chemical dependency and mental health. The staggering numbers of attorneys that commit suicide led to Mr. Leffler’s interest into this phenomenon. He became certified as a suicide prevention instructor in 2004 and has made numerous presentations on this subject to numerous Virginia Bar organizations in Virginia and nationally to three different sections of the American Bar Association. He started and managed outpatient programs for the Medical College of Virginia’s Department of Psychiatry, Charter Westbrook Hospital and St. John’s Hospital. He has supervised numerous individuals working towards licensure and certification as counselors in the state of Virginia. He also has consulted with various agencies in matters such as professional conduct of staff, privacy rights of clients, and the importance of accurate diagnosis to insure appropriate treatment. Mr. Leffler has undergraduate and graduate degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University and has been licensed since 1990.
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