New Hampshire Lawyers Assistance Program has helped hundreds of New Hampshire lawyers address and overcome challenges to engaging successfully in their professional and personal lives.
The New Hampshire Lawyers Assistance Program (NHLAP) is an independent, non-NH Bar affiliated, confidential resource established by the NH Supreme Court. NHLAP provides FREE 100% CONFIDENTIAL assistance to New Hampshire lawyers, judges, and law students who experience substance abuse, depression, stress or other distress that affect well-being and impair an individual’s ability to function and practice law. LAP can also aid in the curtailment of malpractice claims and disciplinary complaints. Help starts with just one phone call.
CONTACT: Terri M. Harrington, Esq., Executive Director | 2 1/2 Beacon St | Concord, NH 03301
(603)491-0282| toll-free (877)224-6060 | Email firstname.lastname@example.org
NH Lawyers Assistance Program is NOT a program of the NH Bar Association although fee to support NHLAP are paid through the member renewal process.
Terri M. Harrington, ESQ
Pathway to Lawyer Well-Being
By Terri Harrington, Esq., Executive Director, New Hampshire Lawyers Assistance Program
Since I started as the new Executive Director of the New Hampshire Lawyers Assistance Program in January of 2018, I have been meeting with as many New Hampshire attorneys as possible. I wanted to know if working lawyers had any idea what NHLAP was, and if so, if they thought it was relevant to their professional lives. What I have learned is that many lawyers have no idea what NHLAP is and what it does.
NHLAP has grown from its formal inception in 2007 to a vital resource in helping lawyers deal with personal and professional crises set in motion because of substance abuse, mental health or other disruptions in their lives.
However, those in the practice of law and the Lawyers Assistance Programs that serve them are at a crossroads. Recent comprehensive studies show that lawyers as a profession are suffering some of the highest levels of substance abuse, mental health crises, suicide and job dissatisfaction in comparison to other professional pursuits. LAPs can no longer afford to be reactive. Providing intervention when professional life is no longer manageable is not enough.
A call to action has been sounded from the leadership at the American Bar Association and has caught the attention of leaders of the legal profession. The mission can no longer be crisis management alone.
The culture of the legal profession requires a significant move forward to embrace and value overall wellbeing as a core tenet of ethics, productivity and professionalism. The culmination of work on this issue can be found in the 2017 report submitted to the ABA by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being.
Each of the 50 individual LAPs are now tasked with bringing education and a blueprint for change to the lawyers that they serve. The task is daunting, to say the least. Not only do lawyers still openly fear stigmatization for association with NHLAP, they do not understand how it should be relevant to their everyday practice and overall well-being. This under-standing is difficult to achieve in a profession whose culture is still mired in the traditional model of what it means to be a successful attorney — long work hours, little sleep, little life balance and little attention to physical, mental and emotional health.
I know from experience that this is truly the case. I start-ed my professional life as a contract attorney in Maine — a public defender without a public defender office for support. I’ve also worked as an associate for a solo practitioner, opened my own solo practice, and started the first Domestic Violence Unit at a district attorney’s office. I made the decision to stay at home to raise four boys for nine years, sacrificing the progress I was making in my legal career-for a much more important and difficult pursuit. I reentered the workforce in New Hampshire at the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office and worked as the prosecutor for the Alternative Courts: Drug, Mental Health and Veterans.
I know what stress is and know that everyone talks about it over lunch, between breaks of courtroom battles and just about everywhere lawyers meet. We act like it is just part of the job. But we are suffering. I was suffering. Lawyers are problem solvers. We can collectively solve this problem if we have the collective will to do so.
These solutions are not simply a luxury for members of our bar, but necessary to stem the tide of growing substance abuse, psychological breakdowns, suicides, ethical breach-es and professional dissatisfaction. Eighteen percent of lawyers have an alcohol use disorder, compared with eight percent of adults overall in America. Nineteen of 100,000 lawyers commit suicide. This ratio is on par with doctors, nurse and dentists. Only corporate managers have a higher rate of suicide among trained professionals.
28 percent of lawyers have symptoms of depression and 19 percent have symptoms of anxiety meeting DSMR diagnostic criteria. Legal employers should support this movement of proactive wellness not just for the people they employ but for the bottom line.
The New Hampshire Bar is an aging bar. Young lawyers need to understand that not only does New Hampshire offer an exceptional quality of life, but that they can actually enjoy that quality of life if they work for legal employers who embrace well being as a part of their work environment.
These changes will not come easy. It will be incumbent upon all New Hampshire legal stakeholders to continually engage in the necessary conversations with legal employers and lawyers themselves that well-being is not a “new age” luxury, but a quantifiable and necessary component to what it means to be a good lawyer. I look forward to continuing to work with law firms big and small, public defenders, prosecutors, non-profit attorneys, solo practitioners and judges to transition our profession from the point of crisis to one of better overall well-being and job satisfaction. I hope you will join with me.