Calling a lawyer assistance helpline: “An action you will not regret”

There’s a two-page article in the February 2009 issue of New Mexico Lawyer all about the New Mexico Lawyers Assistance Program (NMLAP). Written by Albequerque-based attorney Briggs Cheney, whose practice focuses on the representation of lawyers, the article touches on many aspects of lawyer addiction.

First, it outlines some of the common reasons that people give for not calling the NMLAP helpline about a colleague they’re worried about. They’re endless, according to Cheney, but all rooted in fear – that the problem isn’t that bad, that they could be wrong in their assessment of the situation, that they will ruin someone’s practice, etc.

Succintly, Cheney explains why those fears are worth facing. “You don’t help a friend or colleague by not calling, nor do you protect the public or a colleague by ignoring warning signs. Sitting back and hoping for the best is a risky stance at best, but looking deep and finding courage to call is an action that you will not regret.”

Cheney goes on to list some common warning signs, and explains the confidentiality provisions of the program: whether you’re calling about yourself or someone else, your identity will not be revealed (not even to the State Bar).

When calling the NMLAP helpline,  Cheney explains, the caller will talk to a professional who understands addiction and mental health issues. After the initial call(s), the person seeking help can decide what, if any, course of action to take.

The article is an excellent, honest introduction to the NMLAP program, and we hope to see other jurisdictions promote their programs in a similar way.

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