Q&A

Questions and AnswersIn this area of the site, you can find answers to non-legal questions about the human side of lawyering.  Answers are written by licensed clinicians with the purpose of providing information, and are not a substitute for a clinical evaluation.

We do not post responses to questions that seem to be frivolous or unrelated to our mission, or that don’t seem to be from Massachusetts lawyers, law students, judges (or family members). We have no way to check back with you, because of the mechanism that keeps this anonymous.

CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT AN ANONYMOUS QUESTION

or click any of the topics in the above list to access a wealth of information accumulated in years of archived Q&A columns.


CURRENT QUESTION(S) OF THE WEEK

[A reminder to those who have sent questions about how to function as a lawyer, such as the proper way of setting up a contingency fee arrangement — this is not the function of LCL — we would suggest instead trying our sister program, masslomap.org.]

NEWCOMER TO THERAPY: HOW TO START; GROUP VS INDIVIDUAL

QUESTION:

I tend to be a private person and I have never gone to therapy. However, I am coming to the realization that I need help. What’s the best first step? I don’t know if I would be comfortable saying anything in a group support group setting.

ANSWER:  

In general, people are most comfortable beginning with an individual initial session (may be called consultation, evaluation, or assessment).  Once the issues are identified individually, the client/patient and the interviewing clinician can discuss a plan for further help.  Although group settings have much to offer that is different from individual therapy, someone who is new to therapy will often prefer to begin with a referral for individual work.

There are also various and different kinds of groups.  Some, for example, are peer support groups, such as 12-step groups or the recovery-related LCL Support Groups that we offer.  Because those are run by members rather than professionals, they usually follow a distinct structure; they offer a strong sense of “these people understand what I’m going through, and we’re all in it together.”  Among professionally conducted groups, some are didactic, something like classes, providing information or teaching therapeutic skills, while others are more interactive, in which the therapist’s primary role may be to help participants observe patterns in how they interact with others.  There are many other permutations for those who choose to enter a therapy or support group.

If you are a Massachusetts lawyer, judge, or law student (or family member of same), feel free to contact LCL to schedule an initial evaluation to review your needs and the potential kinds of referrals we can make.


LAWYER-RELATED AL-ANON?

QUESTION:

I am looking for an alanon meeting in the Cambridge/Arlington/Lexington area. Do you know of any? Does Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers have group support meetings for dealing with an alcoholic spouse?  Thank you.

ANSWER:  

We can’t recommend a specific Al-Anon meeting for you, but you can find a list of various kinds of Al-Anon meetings at  http://www.ma-al-anon-alateen.org/findameeting.php .  On this web page, you can plug in either the day of the week or the town and see what options emerge.

LCL does not have an Al-Anon type of group (i.e., for family members of alcoholic/addicted lawyers, or for lawyers who have alcoholic/addicted spouses or other family members – it would probably also include adult children of alcoholics/addicts).  But we are more than willing to sponsor such a meeting if we were to get enough potential candidates to express an interest (do you know of any besides yourself?), including at least one person who would serve as a coordinator and chairperson.  Anyone reading this who is interested can contact Dr. Jeff Fortgang of our staff at DrJeff@LCLMA.org.


COULD UNDERGRAD MISBEHAVIOR BECOME A CHARACTER & FITNESS ISSUE?

QUESTION:

For the GA Bar character + fitness application it asks: “Have you ever been dropped, suspended, warned, placed on scholastic or disciplinary probation, expelled or requested to resign from any college, university or law school or otherwise subjected to discipline by any such institution or requested or advised by any such institution to discontinue your studies therein?”

This section seems to be getting at suspension or academic dishonesty. If I received a disciplinary violation in college for underage alcohol possession and violation of quiet hours, does that need to be reported? Will this character and fitness app be a matter of public record?

ANSWER:  

Let me begin by noting that LCL is not a legal advisory service — we are actually staffed primarily by mental health clinicians – but we have developed some impressions over the years.   All of our impressions are based on what we’ve seen in Massachusetts, and some things may differ in GA.

  • Our observation has been that it’s almost always better to disclose these things than to risk having them come to light in another way or to be perceived as having withheld relevant information.
  • In Massachusetts, I am told, bar applications are public but character and fitness records are not.
  • It seems very unlikely that these infractions would be considered enough (in and of themselves) to constitute a significant obstacle in seeking admission to the Bar.

You may want to call the GA Office of Bar Admissions and/or the GA Lawyer Assistance Program (anonymously) to double-check the applicability of this information.

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