Addiction warning signs

The addicted lawyer’s work and family can be seriously affected. The addicted person can feel helpless, frustrated, ashamed, guilty, and hopeless and be unwilling, perhaps unable, to address the health issues squarely. Also, most lawyers spend their time dealing with other people’s problems and they often do not want to seek help because after all “they are the helper”. It is a natural part of the disease to deny having it and lawyers are brilliant rationalizers and excuse makers.

It is often difficult to identify an impaired judge, lawyer, law student, or staff member because of his/her efforts to conceal the problem. A lawyer is often strongly attached to having clients and fellow lawyers believe that she/he is a competent practitioner and so does everything possible to prevent others from knowing he/she has any kind of problem. The dis-stressed person often becomes increasingly isolated as the problem progresses.

In order to be of assistance you do not need to diagnose the illness, you only have to look for signs based upon Attendance, Performance and Behaviour. If there are such problems, address them. The Lawyers Assistance Program is available to help and advise you about what you can do and what to say. By helping to identify that there is a problem you can help pave the way for your colleague, employee, or family member to choose an effective treatment program.

  • Comes to work late and/or leaves early on a regular basis
  • Misses court
  • Frequently returns late or fails to return from lunch
  • Misses appointments and scheduled meetings
  • Frequently off work ill or unexplained absences, especially around weekends or holidays
  • Procrastinates, misses deadlines
  • Fails to return phone calls or correspondence
  • Decrease in number of hours worked and/or billed over time
  • Overreacts to criticism; blames others
  • Performance declines throughout the day
  • Erratic and variable performance or a noticeable deterioration of performance over time
  • Errors in judgment, memory lapses, confused thinking
  • Clients complain about performance/accessibility/communication
  • Sloppiness with clients’ trust funds
  • Lack of organization, failure to complete necessary records
  • Appears under the influence and/or smells of alcohol in the office or during court appearances
  • Unable to get along with or withdraws from fellow lawyers and other staff
  • Deterioration of personal appearance and/or hygiene
  • Inappropriate behaviour at professional gatherings
  • Lies, is dishonest or misleads others
  • Finances in disarray, credit problems, tax problems, disorganization
  • Persistent health problems that are not accurately diagnosed or treated
High risk situations
  • Marriage or relationship breakdown
  • Loss of a job or promotion
  • Complaining of stress or overwork, looking “stressed” or frazzled
  • Death and grieving
  • Malpractice claims, Law Society problems
  • Financial difficulties

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