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Workplace Substance Abuse and Ethical Issues With Impaired Lawyer


Learn how to recognize mental health and substance abuse within your colleagues and how to address them about it.

It has been a truism for decades, if not centuries, that lawyers have problems with the bottle - it is a common cliché in movies and novels. Often the impaired attorney is the managing partner or the firm's rainmaker. It can be uncomfortable for colleagues to address the issue. Frequently they ignore the problem until it's too late - the firm has angry clients, malpractice suits and disciplinary action. This information will address some of the underlying reasons that lawyers suffer disproportionally high rates of substance abuse and mental health problems. It will review some common examples of attorney misconduct caused by substance abuse and/or mental illness. This material will look at both how these issues affect both the individual attorneys and the firm as a whole. It will also provide suggestions on some ways to protect your firm and your practice from impaired colleagues and where to go for help. Finally, this information will suggest some best practices to have in place prior to any problems.



Meredith S. Heller

Meredith S. Heller

Law Office of Meredith S. Heller PLLC

  • Principal, the Law Office of Meredith S. Heller PLLC
  • Practice emphasizes criminal defense and professional responsibility
  • Frequent speaker at CLEs on substance abuse and the profession, as well as professional ethics, generally
  • Member of NYS Bar Association’s Task Force on Lawyer Wellbeing (chair, Emotional Wellbeing Subcommittee)
  • Member of the New York City Bar Association (former chair, Professional Responsibility Committee; former chair, Lawyers Assistance Program Committee), New York State Bar Association (member of Professional Discipline Committee), New York Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers, and Federal Bar Council
  • J.D. degree, Cardozo Law School; M.A. and B.A. degrees, Case Western Reserve University

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