The Advisory: Volume 8, Issue 3, June 2010

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Lawyers at Risk Roundtable: Programs Identified to Address Gaps in Services

By Carsten Jensen, QC, Bencher and Chair, Lawyers at Risk Task Force, Law Society of Alberta

A roundtable discussion addressed ways to help lawyers and articling students dealing with personal and professional issues including mental health and addiction.

Held on May 7, 2010, the Law Society of Alberta’s Lawyers at Risk TaskForce Roundtable reviewed the existing programs and policies available in Alberta to assist lawyers and articling students experiencing these kinds of personal problems. It also compared those programs and policies with best practices. The discussion also benefited from a review of the work done by other regulators, lawyer assistance programs and legal communities.

One of the discussion goals was to articulate the gaps and deficiencies which exist in Alberta. Another goal was to identify possible policy and program initiatives to address those gaps and deficiencies, all the while keeping in mind that the Law Society regulates the profession in the public interest.

The outcomes of the Roundtable will be presented to the Benchers for discussion and action.

The participants included Law Society President Rod Jerke, QC, Law Society President- Elect Douglas Mah, QC, and Taskforce chair Carsten Jensen, QC, together with several other Benchers and Law Society staff. Invited guests included the Executive Director of the Florida Lawyers Assistance Program, the Executive Director of the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program, and the Deputy Registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia. As well, two Alberta lawyers who had first-hand experiences dealing with mental health and addiction issues, and resulting Law Society disciplinary matters participated in the roundtable.

The contributions from all participants were exceptional. The discussion will no doubt help to inform and shape the future work of the Law Society in dealing with lawyers and articling students living with mental health issues, addiction problems and other personal issues that impact their professional lives.

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