Some Tips on Warning Signs of Addiction

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 more and more isolated and remote as the problem progresses.

In order to be of assistance you do not need to diagnose the illness, you only have to look for some 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, give us a call. By helping to identify that there is a problem you can help to get your colleague, employee, or family member, into an effective treatment program.

It is natural and healthy to offer help to a friend in distress. Become familiar with the services offered by the Lawyers Assistance Program. You can save lives and protect your clients and your practice. Some signs of dis-stress in a legal professional, include:

  • 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.
  • Failure 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.
  • Behavioural problems at social gatherings, even where professional decorum
  • is expected.
  • Tells lies, is dishonest or misleads others
  • Finances in disarray, credit problems, tax problems, disorganization.
  • Persistent health problems that are not being properly diagnosed or treated.
High risk situations:
  • Marriage or relationship breakdown.
  • Loss of a job or promotion.
  • Complaining of stress or overwork, looking “stress” or frazzled.
  • Deaths and grieving.
  • Malpractice claims, Law Society problems
  • Financial difficulties.

If you notice some of these signs, please give the LAP a call. We can help and want to help.