Lawyer Assistance Programs reach out to law schools

October 6, 2010
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This blog post was written by IL reporter Rebecca Berfanger.

The ABA conference of the Commission of Lawyers Assistance Programs, or CoLAP, is taking place this week at the Hyatt in downtown Indianapolis. Having covered this issue since I started working here in 2006, I had been invited to attend the conference and will be doing a follow up article for the issue of Indiana Lawyer that comes out next week.

One of the panels that caught my attention on today’s schedule was “Resources for Law Student Wellness.” The panel included experts on the issue: the president of the Valparaiso University School of Law Student Bar Association who is active with the ABA Law Student Division, someone from the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, someone from the Montana Lawyer Assistance Program, an assistant dean of the University of Minnesota Law School, and someone from the Minnesota State Bar Association Life and the Law Committee.

The panelists discussed various ways the law schools and LAPs in their states have been tackling the various issues students face, including how to address some of the myths when it comes to getting help for mental health or substance abuse problems while in law school, and how it can affect one’s character and fitness results when they apply to join the bar after they graduate. The presence of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have also contributed to the proliferation of some myths for law students who seek help.

Panelists and audience members discussed various ways they reach out to students, whether it’s a tough-love approach, with a mandatory session for all students as part of orientation or professional responsibility courses; or to offer voluntary programs that students can attend if they want to learn more about LAPs and what they will need to know when its time for their state’s Board of Law Examiners to determine if their character and fitness are up to par to practice law.

An audience member from the Nebraska Lawyers Assistance Program said that his organization, with permission from the Minnesota LAP, recreated a brochure “Are you fit to be a lawyer?” to give to students early on in their law school careers. This way, he said, students that truly aren’t fit to be lawyers will know before they spend three years in school, graduate facing $100,000 or more in debt, and are unable to pass the bar because they’re simply not fit to be lawyers. But if they figure this out and get help early on, they have a chance.

The brochure, which panelists agreed was a good idea and something that could also be given to students through the school year or could be made available where students could easily find it, includes information about the character and fitness requirement; conduct that may be cause for concern; the importance of honest disclosure; how the bar authorities will look at past behavior; how alcohol, substance abuse, and mental health can affect one’s practice; how conditional admission works; and resources for more information to get help.

The conference participant from Nebraska LAP said after giving a talk at a law school that included the brochure, he received five calls within two days of the talk.

Terry Harrell, the executive director of Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program, spoke with me after the panel and said lawyers are better off if they face their issues as law students. Otherwise, the problem doesn’t go away, it just gets worse.

After the session, she introduced me to Mike Stewart, a representative of program exhibitor Bradford Health Services, who told me about a scholarship program for 30-day rehabilitation treatment available to law students. LAPs around the country are aware of the program and can help students apply for the scholarship. The only thing the student would need to pay for is transportation. So far, only one student in the country has taken advantage of this scholarship, but Harrell and Stewart said they know there is more than one student who could take advantage of this program, and hope others will.

The conference lasts through Friday, and there are some spots available for various events. More information about registration and events for the program are available on CoLAP’s website.

Did you learn about LAP as part of your law school experience? If not, do you wish you had? And if so, do you think it helped you or your fellow students? Do you think all students can benefit from learning what can and can’t hurt them when they apply for the bar even if it’s two or three years down the road?
 

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  • JLAP and political agenda
    It is unfortunate that JLAP is being sued for allowing itself to be used as a political tool. Any conservatives dealing with JLAP are taking a very big risk.

    See www.archangelinstitute.org for details

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  1. No second amendment, pro life, pro traditional marriage, reagan or trump tshirts will be sold either. And you cannot draw Mohammed even in your own notebook. And you must wear a helmet at all times while at the fair. And no lawyer jokes can be told except in the designated protest area. And next year no crucifixes, since they are uber offensive to all but Catholics. Have a nice bland day here in the Lego movie. Remember ... Everything is awesome comrades.

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  3. All these sites putting up all the crap they do making Brent Look like A Monster like he's not a good person . First off th fight actually started not because of Brent but because of one of his friends then when the fight popped off his friend ran like a coward which left Brent to fend for himself .It IS NOT a crime to defend yourself 3 of them and 1 of him . just so happened he was a better fighter. I'm Brent s wife so I know him personally and up close . He's a very caring kind loving man . He's not abusive in any way . He is a loving father and really shouldn't be where he is not for self defense . Now because of one of his stupid friends trying to show off and turning out to be nothing but a coward and leaving Brent to be jumped by 3 men not only is Brent suffering but Me his wife , his kids abd step kidshis mom and brother his family is left to live without him abd suffering in more ways then one . that man was and still is my smile ....he's the one real thing I've ever had in my life .....f@#@ You Lafayette court system . Learn to do your jobs right he maybe should have gotten that year for misdemeanor battery but that s it . not one person can stand to me and tell me if u we're in a fight facing 3 men and u just by yourself u wouldn't fight back that you wouldn't do everything u could to walk away to ur family ur kids That's what Brent is guilty of trying to defend himself against 3 men he wanted to go home tohisfamily worse then they did he just happened to be a better fighter and he got the best of th others . what would you do ? Stand there lay there and be stomped and beaten or would u give it everything u got and fight back ? I'd of done the same only I'm so smallid of probably shot or stabbed or picked up something to use as a weapon . if it was me or them I'd do everything I could to make sure I was going to live that I would make it hone to see my kids and husband . I Love You Brent Anthony Forever & Always .....Soul 1 baby

  4. Good points, although this man did have a dog in the legal fight as that it was his mother on trial ... and he a dependent. As for parking spaces, handicap spots for pregnant women sure makes sense to me ... er, I mean pregnant men or women. (Please, I meant to include pregnant men the first time, not Room 101 again, please not Room 101 again. I love BB)

  5. I have no doubt that the ADA and related laws provide that many disabilities must be addressed. The question, however, is "by whom?" Many people get dealt bad cards by life. Some are deaf. Some are blind. Some are crippled. Why is it the business of the state to "collectivize" these problems and to force those who are NOT so afflicted to pay for those who are? The fact that this litigant was a mere spectator and not a party is chilling. What happens when somebody who speaks only East Bazurkistanish wants a translator so that he can "understand" the proceedings in a case in which he has NO interest? Do I and all other taxpayers have to cough up? It would seem so. ADA should be amended to provide a simple rule: "Your handicap, YOUR problem". This would apply particularly to handicapped parking spaces, where it seems that if the "handicap" is an ingrown toenail, the government comes rushing in to assist the poor downtrodden victim. I would grant wounded vets (IED victims come to mind in particular) a pass on this.. but others? Nope.

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