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Bar launches Montana Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being

Monday, February 25, 2019   (0 Comments)
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The State Bar of Montana has announced the launch of a task force to address mental health and substance abuse problems among those working in the legal profession.

The Montana Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being will provide guidelines to implement recommendations from a national report in order to improve support mechanisms for people in the legal profession. The task force hopes to deliver a report to the bar’s Board of Trustees for its Sept. 19 meeting in Billings.

The Montana task force is modeled on the ABA’s National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, whose 2017 report renewed focus on the problems of substance abuse and mental health disorders among lawyers. The ABA task force was in response to a 2016 study, which found that between 21 and 36 percent of practicing lawyers are problem drinkers, while lawyers suffer from depression, anxiety and stress at rates of 28 percent, 19 percent and 23 percent, respectively.

“The pressures we face in the legal profession are no secret, but it is clear that more must be done to address this epidemic,” said the Honorable Leslie Halligan, immediate past president of the State Bar of Montana and a member of the Montana task force. “Lives and careers are at risk when substance abuse and mental health problems go unchecked, and clients are at risk when their lawyers are troubled.”

The comprehensive ABA task force included recommendations for all stakeholders in the profession to take, as well as specific steps for judges, regulators of the profession, legal employers, law schools, bar associations and Lawyer Assistance Programs.

Building on suggestions of a 2018 working group, invited members of the Montana task force are Montana Supreme Court Justice James Jeremiah Shea, task force chair; retired Justice Patricia Cotter; the Honorable Leslie Halligan, State Bar of Montana immediate past president; Juli Pierce, State Bar of Montana president-elect; Chief Disciplinary Counsel Mike Cotter; Mike Larson, Lawyers Assistance Program coordinator; Dean Paul Kirgis of the Blewett School of Law; Chris Newbold, executive vice president of ALPS and a member of the ABA’s National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being; Annie Goodwin, Commission on Character and Fitness chair, and Hannah Cail, chair of the state bar’s New Lawyers’ Section.