Back to School for Lawyers

You never know for sure what the story is going to be just by reading the headline. For instance, reading a headline about lawyers being required to get more education about drugs might make you think, well, sure! Lawyers are so often dealing with people who are arrested for substance abuse that they really need to know more about it. They need to know so that when they prosecute or defend they will be able to present intelligent questions and draw correct conclusions. It’s nearly as important as having the law enforcement officers study the subject.

Surprise! Imagine the surprise in reading the article and discovering that this was not the point at all. Rather, the point was the very sad fact that 23 percent of the lawyers who applied to take the bar exam within the past two years had a history of substance abuse. Francis Flaherty, the president of the State Bar of Nevada, believes that a dose of substance abuse education could help to remedy the situation. He presented a petition that would require that one hour of the annual 12 hours of continuing education for attorneys should be devoted to the problem. The thought is that the lawyers who need the assistance rarely go to the voluntary programs that have been set up.

The Bar Association has a fund that is set up to reimburse clients who are victims of attorney theft. They estimate that over $400,000, or about one-third of their reimbursed claims have been sent out because of attorneys who are removed from practice because of problems with substance abuse, addiction, gambling, or mental health issues. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and solved.

Not everyone thinks, though, that merely requiring them to have one hour of continuing education each year will take care of the problem. Yes, the studies show that there is a higher rate of drug and alcohol abuse among lawyers than in many other professions. But the Nevada Supreme Court Justice Kristina Pickering is not too sure that this will really remedy the situation.

Perhaps it’s a way of getting the problem out into the open so that lawyers will begin to take it more seriously, and despite their difficult jobs, resist the temptation to turn to alcohol and drugs to get them through it. Substance abuse always backfires, causing more problems than it seemed like it would momentarily solve.

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