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Judges & Lawyers Assistance Program > Articles > "I know nothink." "I know nothink."

by Susan Eisenhauser, J.D., Former Executive Director, JLAP
Volume 23, No. 2. Indiana Trial Lawyers Association quarterly journal, The Verdict. Reprinted with permission

"I know nothink."
- Sergeant Schultz to Colonel Hogan - Hogan's Heroes

The Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program (hereafter JLAP) is pleased to be back in front of the trial lawyers of Indiana. I want to thank Verdict Editor Thomas Macke, ITLA Executive Director Micki Wilson and our liaison Jason Bell for offering us this unique opportunity. It is our hope you will find the information presented here valuable, if not in your own practice, than perhaps in dealing with another lawyer or simply in your life in general. We all know the types of problems we see at JLAP are not confined to our offices, our courtrooms or our profession.

The Confidentiality Issue

Now we get to why I quoted the infamous Sergeant Schultz. I am going to use this column today to talk about something vitally important to the success of JLAP - confidentiality. Without your belief in total confidentiality, you will not trust us. Without your trust, we cannot do our work. It is important for you to remember that every communication with JLAP is completely confidential under Admission and Discipline Rule 31 and Professional Responsibility Rules 8.3 and 1.6. JLAP staff and volunteers, all attorneys, are exempt from the "snitch rule", regardless of the degree of impairment encountered and regardless of whether someone participates in our program as a result of an interaction. It is interesting to note that at a recent forum the question was raised whether JLAP needed "teeth" like the Physician's Assistance Program. What that meant was-do we need to be required to report attorneys who come to our program but "fail". First, let me emphasize we do not feel anyone who leaves our office fails, regardless of where they are in the acceptance of their particular disease. We accept the fact we deal with illnesses that most often require a progressive approach. We consider any interaction with an attorney or his/her friends, family or colleagues a successful step in that individual's personal recovery process.

Next, this leads me to why we absolutely do not want teeth like those in the Physician's Program. Currently we have several program participants who originally came to our attention shortly after I began this job in November of 1999. Indeed, one or two were involved with JLAP prior to even that time. I think I can say, unequivocally, that these attorneys would not be in our Program today (doing quite well, I might add) had we been required to report them to a disciplinary body when we first became involved in their cases. Unless JLAP has a signed release we talk to no one.

Here's how it works:

Cases come to us in one of three ways. A self-referral is pretty self-explanatory. You think you might have a problem, you call JLAP. We will hook you up with an attorney who has experienced a similar problem. We will work with you to provide either an in-house assessment, or refer you out if that is your choice. We will put together a list of referrals and work with you to arrange appropriate treatment if that is your choice. If a third party calls concerned about someone, we will work with that person or persons to determine the extent of the problem. Quite often in these early stages of JLAP's development, these are cases where an attorney is in, or near, crisis. If deemed appropriate, we will work on putting together an intervention. This covers a broad range on interactions from a formal intervention with a trained interventionist, to an informal meeting with the attorney. Let's remember one of the definitions of intervention: to interfere in the affairs of another to protect one's own interests. Finally, when the case has already been in the disciplinary system JLAP is often asked to monitor an attorney as part of a probation period in lieu of a complete suspension. This is the only case where we give information to another party - including the reporting of non-compliance -- but even here a release is part of the Monitoring Agreement. The JLAP Monitoring Program is an important component of our services because it allows attorneys who would otherwise face perhaps lengthy suspensions to continue to practice law with the supports that JLAP provides and the Agreement requires.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce Terry Harrell, the Clinical Director of JLAP. Terry is a member of what I call a "strange and wonderful" breed; she is a lawyer and an MSW. After graduating from IU- Bloomington and practicing law in a large firm, Terry decided to return to school to get her Masters Degree in Social Work. She graduated in 1993 and has been in the mental health field since that time, most recently managing Midtown Community Mental Heath Center's Westside Clinic. The work we hope to do here at JLAP was of enough interest to Terry that we were able to entice her to work for us part-time. I cannot emphasize enough how very fortunate we are in Indiana to have someone with her level of education, training and experience working to develop ways to reach and assist Indiana's judges, lawyers and law students. Since starting in July of 2000 Terry has been instrumental in developing an outstanding clinical program, as well as helping those in need on a daily basis.

In future columns we will focus on some of the substantive issues we deal with here at JLAP, and that we hope are of interest to you. These will include such issues as alcohol and other substance abuse and dependence; other compulsions and/or addictions such as food or gambling; depression and mental health issues; aging and Alzheimer's; even how JLAP can assist an attorney with a physical impairment. I encourage you to contact Terry or me at JLAP if you have an idea for a column, or have a specific question you would like addressed. If there is an appropriate level of interest, perhaps we can start a question and answer forum in each column. This is your publication; we want to be responsive to your needs.

In my previous column I gave you some of the statistics that seem to indicate trial lawyers might be a particularly vulnerable bunch when it comes to the issues we deal with here at JLAP. I added the good news that we in the legal profession have incredibly high recovery rates in the substance abuse area -- 80-90% compared with 40-50% for the general public - and that the most commonly diagnosed mental health problem, depression, is highly treatable due to significant advances in the field. Please use JLAP, we are your organization. If you only have a question, want clarification, want us to come and speak to your local bar association, call us. We are incredibly encouraged by the responses we receive, and we are even more encouraged by the outcomes of some of the cases we are seeing. Let's work together to make it a trend.

We are here to help!