Comission on Lawyer Assistance Programs Panel on Best Practices Engaging Law Schools

Article excerpt

The transcript that follows is taken from Common Practices, Best Practices and Other Ideas from the Student Frontlines, a panel presented during the American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP) 25th Annual National Conference on October 11, 2012. CoLAP "has the mandate to educate the legal profession concerning alcoholism, chemical dependencies, stress, depression and other emotional health issues, and assist and support all bar associations and lawyer assistance programs in developing and maintaining methods of providing effective solutions for recovery."

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT:

DAVID JAFFE: Good morning, and welcome to the panel "Common Practices, Best Practices, and Other Ideas from the Student Frontlines." Part of the work that the CoLAP Law School Assistance Committee completed over the course of the year was a LAP survey. We reached out to the LAP programs throughout the fifty states seeking basic information with respect to outreach to law schools: what are you doing, when are you doing it, have you found that it's effective? The survey was helpful in framing some of the conversation that we're going to have today. Most of you, I think, were very modest in the information you provided, as I have learned more in the last two to three days about some of the really excellent practices that a number of you have with respect to interacting with your students. And so the goal of this panel is to interact on that level. We're going to leave plenty of time for sharing what you feel has been working well at your school so that we can have those as takeaways as you look to continue engaging with the various law schools and the students at your schools.

But a couple of quick takeaways, and a bit of summary of the survey. It appears that the majority of you are presenting at orientation, although a number of you are also presenting at opportunities when invited at other sessions, such as for ethics or professional responsibility classes. And that whole issue about orientation, whether it's the right time or the wrong time, the best time or whatnot, is, I think, indeed one of the talking points that we could have with the panel today. On the one hand, students are excited. They're coming in; this is a time of transition. The Dean of most law schools doesn't want this to be part of orientation, because all of a sudden, boom, they're getting hit with, "By the way, do you know how many of you are going to be depressed, how many of you are going to be drinking, how many of you are going to need help by the time you graduate?" And so we have the first obstacle with some schools that say, "No, not at my orientation." And then of course on the flip side you have those who say, "Orientation is the one opportunity where you have the entire class together, and so let's take advantage of that." The problem, of course, is that our students, when they're entering and particularly during orientation, are getting slammed with information. They're getting either buckets of print, or a thumb drive, whatever it is, and oftentimes this information is getting tucked away, maybe never to be seen again. So I think part of our conversation needs to be about when we do what we do. If orientation is the only time and it's not being effective, do we need to consider other times, and when should those other times be?

Another takeaway from the survey: we noticed that about half of the LAPs appear to be taking the initiative in reaching out to law schools in advance of each year. "Hey, we want to remind you we're here. We'd like to come out during x, y, and z times. Can we work with you and do that?" While another half seem to be taking more of a passive approach. "We're here, the law school knows that we're here, if they want us all they need to do is call us." Now, I don't want that observation to be seen as a criticism. To the contrary, in my capacity as Dean of Students, I believe that we have the initial role and obligation. …