Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Lawyers Helping Lawyers -- the Ethical Obligations

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Lawyers Helping Lawyers -- the Ethical Obligations

Article excerpt

Last month I wrote about the Lawyers-Helping-Lawyers Committee as a resource for an impaired lawyer. I wrote about courage and compassion to oneself and to fellow attorneys to admit impairment and to seek recovery. Today I want to discuss the equally troubling and less pollyannaish facts of life -- many impaired lawyers refuse assistance.

Impaired lawyers may be as likely to choose impairment as recovery -- their addiction, (a disease) makes them incapable of choosing treatment. Lawyers-Helping-Lawyers cannot help these lawyers directly because L-H-L works with those who voluntarily seek recovery. Must you intervene? Yes.

When you have mustered the courage to confront a fellow attorney about an impairment, you have done so assuredly because you have become convinced that your friend's impairment is destroying his life. You already know that that person must get help -- voluntarily or involuntarily. You know that to allow them to continue impaired leads only to death and destruction. Death in a physical sense for the impaired lawyer through alcoholism, drug abuse or suicidal despair. Death for innocent people who die, for example, in auto accidents when your impaired friend gets behind the wheel. Destruction for the impaired lawyer's family and loved ones who cannot continue living sane and dignified lives with the impaired person. Destruction for the impaired lawyer's clients who do not receive the competent, diligent representation they deserve. As a matter of morality, you should act to save your friend and (indirectly) those around him -- family, innocent people, clients. As a matter of self-protection, you must act because failure to act can lead to professional discipline. The Bar is a self-regulating profession. If you have knowledge of a lawyer or a judge impaired in their fitness for professional duties, Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) Rule 8.3 mandates that you "shall inform the appropriate professional authority." Failure to report when appropriate is itself a disciplinary violation. If you are a partner or a supervising lawyer, you are accountable under RPC Rule 5.1 for another's ethical violations if you have failed to adopt the reasonable measures in your firm that assure compliance with ethical conduct. In addition, Rule 5.1 also imposes personal ethical responsibility upon you if you know of an impairment and fail to take reasonable remedial actions that can avoid or mitigate the consequences of another's (the impaired lawyer) professional misconduct. As these violations of Rule 5.1 are your personal ethical obligations, you may also have malpractice liability for your failure to act to prevent harm, even though you have tried to insulate yourself by becoming a limited liability company or a limited liability partnership. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.