Texas Lawyer Assistance Program
Written by Ann Foster, Executive Director
Mission: The Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program (TLAP) continues to fulfill its mandate to provide confidential peer assistance to attorneys, judges and law students whose lives, practices and studies are affected by alcoholism, substance abuse, depression, mental health issues, stress, and similar conditions. TLAP provides assistance to both attorneys and concerned others; crisis intervention; peer support and encouragement; and referrals to appropriate resources, professionals, counselors, therapists and facilities.
Staff: Ann D. Foster, JD, LPC-Intern, Cameron Vann, JD and Bree Buchanan, JD operate the confidential Hotline (800-343-8527), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Assistance provided: During the 2009-2010 fiscal year (June 1 – May 31), TLAP received over a thousand calls for assistance from attorneys, family members, friends, judges, office staff, law partners and associates. TLAP provided confidential, respectful and discrete assistance to 550 attorneys, 261 concerned others and 44 EAP contacts during the 2009-2010 fiscal year.
Support systems: TLAP utilizes the generous assistance of the members of the State Bar of Texas Lawyers Assistance Committee and a statewide network of more than 500 peer assistance volunteers to help attorneys, judges and law students in their recovery and rehabilitation. TLAP works with the Texas Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers organization to produce the annual TLCL Convention where volunteers receive training and education in such areas as substance abuse, other addictive and mental health disorders, interventions, and monitoring. TLAP helps to support 15 lawyer support group meetings around the state, created to provide peer support for attorneys recovering from substance abuse, depression and other mental health related illnesses. TLAP also helps administer the Patrick Sheeran & Michael J. Crowley Memorial Trust, a source of financial assistance for addiction and mental health services for lawyers without financial resources and no health insurance.
Educational Outreach: This past year, TLAP staff, SBOT Lawyers’ Assistance Committee members and lawyer volunteers have made over 100 presentations at local and specialty bar association meetings, CLE events, and conferences about the ethical, personal and professional implications of impairments in the legal profession and the confidential help available through TLAP and other resources. In addition to these specific educational outreach opportunities, TLAP continued to reach readers of the Texas Bar Journal and a variety of local bar associations through its publication of articles and advertisements throughout the year. TLAP also maintains an active presence on the Internet through its webpage at www.texasbar.com/tlap and receives an increasing number of requests for assistance via this medium. Also, TLAP has distributed over 1500 copies of its 2010 DVD, “Practicing Law and Wellness: Modern Strategies for the Lawyer dealing with Addiction, Anxiety and Depression” to individuals and organizations across the United States and Texas.
Monitoring: At the request of the Texas Board of Law Examiners (BLE) and the Chief Disciplinary Counsels Office (CDC), the TLAP staff and Committee have also contacted, recruited and trained attorney monitors to verify compliance of recovery conditions as part of the probationary licensing program of the BLE and the disciplinary probations from the CDC and Commission on Lawyer Discipline. TLAP provides these services to the BLE and CDE while maintaining and protecting confidentiality as required under the Texas Health& Safety Code, Chapter 467. In its work with the BLE and CDC, TLAP does not advocate for or against a lawyer involved in those systems.