As an LCL employee (since 1998!) it may be presumptuous of me to commend LCL on behalf of our clients, but a recent encounter with another profession’s assistance program has renewed my appreciation of our program for lawyers.
I had occasion recently to refer a newly sober member of a non-law profession to their designated program, assuming that the program would offer profession-specific support groups and voluntary monitoring to document sobriety. Instead, that program, which apparently defines that profession’s board as the primary client, quickly took coercive measures with the professional and also pressured me to breach confidentiality and report to the board. (Without confidentiality, of course, few professionals would voluntarily come to a therapist.) In addition, it seemed that this program prescribes virtually identical treatment plans to all its clients, at least those with alcohol or drug problems.
So allow me to elucidate how differently we operate at LCL. The vast majority of our clients come to see us of their own accord, perhaps encouraged by a friend, family member, or colleague. We consider each lawyer who comes to see us to be our client. We do not communicate about them to the BBO or to anyone else, except at the client’s written request – with the usual psychotherapy exceptions of imminent physical danger or child/elder/disabled abuse. While we know that consumers need protection from attorneys whose impairments may have led to improper professional conduct, we leave it to the BBO to represent the consumers. Even when it comes to Monitoring, where (with permission) we are reporting to a third party, our primary concern is the wellbeing of our client, and we never require Monitoring as a condition of providing assistance.
Any Massachusetts lawyer, law student, or judge, or family member of same, is eligible for free services from LCL. We will keep what you tell us confidential from any outside source (aside from cases of imminent physical danger) unless you want otherwise and provide written consent. Our recommendations will take into account your individual needs, resources, and preferences. When you can use help, we’re here.
Jeff Fortgang, Ph.D.