South Carolina Lawyer
Vol. 14, No. 2, Pg. 14.
Lawyers Helping Lawyers: help when you need it
14Lawyers Helping Lawyers: help when you need itBy J. Robert Turnbull Jr.We are in a new century, we know more, everything is at a faster pace and there are more of us - people, clients and lawyers. We are dependent upon cell phones, e-mail, computers and software programs. Twenty-three years ago we did not know what we know now relating to technology and communications. However, some things have not changed. Then and now, the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse estimates that 10 percent of the U.S. population are alcoholics or are chemically dependent. Experts in the field estimate that alcoholism and alcohol abuse within the legal profession may be as high as 18-20 percent. The National Mental Health Association estimates that more than 19 million Americans (8.3 percent) will have a depression disorder at least once during their lifetime and more than 10 million Americans (5.8 percent) currently have a depression disorder. The legal profession is estimated to have a higher than national average percentage of persons suffering from depression.
16Twenty-three years ago the Lawyers Caring About Lawyers Committee (LCAL) was organized to provide member services for the South Carolina Bar. Beginning on January 4, 1979, an all-volunteer committee chaired by the late U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Hemphill met at the Bar office on Bull Street in Columbia to assist and serve lawyers in South Carolina with alcohol and/or drug problems.
The LCAL Committee has had a significant impact in helping lawyers suffering from alcoholism. Alcoholism is classified as a disease by the American Medical Association because it has a clearly defined symptomatology and a downward progression if untreated. But its harmful effects may be arrested with proper treatment and continuing care. The effect of the disease untreated on a member of the legal profession can be a study in progressive personal devastation that can result in death. To a client of an alcoholic lawyer, the results can also be devastating.
In 1995, the LCAL Committee expanded its program to also assist lawyers with depression. However, while the problems of addiction and depression have continued to affect Bar members, many of them have not understood that a resource...