Brief History of OLAP
In the summer of 1979, a group of recovering alcoholic lawyers and judges met in the chambers of then Franklin County Common Pleas Judge J. Craig Wright in Columbus. This statewide group of professionals, who had gotten sober and were remaining so by supporting each other and attending 12-Step meetings, formed the Ohio State Bar Association's Lawyers Assistance Committee (LAC). Among the dozen or so attending was William X. Haase, retired from Arter & Hadden in Cleveland, who became OLAP's first Executive Director.
The LAC members decided that something needed to be done to address the increasing number of lawyers and judges whose alcoholism was ruining their practices and their lives (a lawyer with a drinking problem and disciplinary problems generally was disbarred). They created a volunteer network of recovering professionals who, when told of a lawyer/judge in trouble, would go and talk to the person, encouraging him/her to seek professional help, etc.
As the number of lawyers seeking help increased, and the Ohio Supreme Court began to change the disciplinary and admissions rules to take "recovery" into account, it became necessary to move from an all volunteer organization to a professionally staffed one.
In 1991, the OSBA/LAC incorporated Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program, Inc., as an Ohio nonprofit corporation. OLAP was granted IRC 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status as a charitable educational entity by the IRS the following year. OLAP's mission is to protect the public from impaired lawyers and judges, educate law students and the profession about substance use disorders and mental illness, provide advice about treatment alternatives, perform interventions, and provide support and monitor recovery.
I got sober in January 1985, started volunteering with the LAC that fall, and became OLAP's first Associate Director in 1995, while continuing to practice law in Columbus. Haase covered the state north of about Mansfield, and I covered the rest. I took over as Executive Director when Bill Haase died in February 1999. In 2002 we started working with mental health issues, and I added a social worker in Columbus, and two recovering lawyers to head our efforts in Cleveland and Cincinnati.
Our current staff:
Scott R. Mote, Esq., Executive Director
Megan R. Robertson, MSW, LISW-S, Clinical Director
Beverly Endslow, B.A. CDCA, Clinical Associate and Firm Administrator
Nina M. Corbut, B.A., Director of Communications & Outreach
Crystal N. Beres, B.A., MSW, Clinical Assistant
Paul A. Caimi, Esq., LCDC-III, ICADC, Associate Director (Cleveland)
Patrick J. Garry, Esq., Associate Director (Cincinnati).
OLAP personnel give 50-60 CLE presentations each year, reaching an estimated live audience approaching 5,000. We also speak at the nine Ohio law schools, providing information at first year orientations and professional responsibility classes. We speak not only about substance use disorder and mental health, but also wellness issues affecting the profession. It is not unusual for us to receive an email or telephone call the same day from someone in the audience, seeking help for themselves or a colleague.
We receive about 30 new inquiries each month. We get calls/referrals from colleagues, judges, disciplinary counsel, certified grievance committees, admissions committees, defense counsel, spouses, children, law school administrators and professors, and the occasional client. Concerns raised include drinking, illegal and prescription drugs, internet porn, sexual compulsion disorder, gambling, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, anorexia and bulimia, adult attention deficit disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder…you name it, it affects our profession.
We generally require corroborating information on a new client before doing anything. If we do not obtain corroboration, we do not move forward to intervene—we open a confidential file and wait. Where we have corroboration, we often will set up and facilitate an intervention. Sometimes we provide information to the caller on how to approach the troubled person, and that results in a call from a new client.
Once we have established a relationship with a client, the real work begins. About 75% of the time, we will do an assessment. Robertson can diagnose both substance use disorder and mental illness. Endslow and Caimi can diagnose substance use disorder, and can screen for mental illness, but not diagnose. We are trying at the outset to determine what is going on (diagnosis), and what needs to be done (drug/alcohol treatment, medical evaluation, psychiatric evaluation, psychological therapy, etc.). Of course, we help find treatment professionals.
We encourage the person to sign a Recovery Contract with us for a minimum of two years, and up to five years. The contract requires the client to do whatever it takes to get moving in the right direction. For alcohol/drugs, this can be inpatient or outpatient treatment, and 12-Step recovery meetings, or other support meetings. For mental illness, this can mean evaluation by a psychiatrist, taking prescribed medications, and individual counseling. We also require telephone contact with us, often daily early on, and then as the client improves, it can be reduced to one or two times per week. Whatever the requirements, the client is required to document what he/she is doing, by providing written verification of attendance at 12-Step/other support meetings, regular reports from therapists, etc.
Our clients include law students, lawyers and judges.
20% are substance use disorders only.
40% are mental illness only.
40% are dual diagnosis (substance use disorder and mental illness).
We carry a case load of over 200 active files. About 20% of our clients are law students, and we usually are working with about 10 judges.
Each of our compliant law student clients gets to take the bar exam. Our compliant lawyers and judges get through the disciplinary process, if that is an issue, and rarely have grievances filed against them again. For those who do what we and their treatment providers recommend, life turns around, and they get to be happy and productive lawyers and judges, wives and husbands and partners, colleagues, and friends again.
The Supreme Court recognized early on that if a lawyer in trouble thought that OLAP would report misconduct to disciplinary authorities, no one would seek help. Thus, OLAP and local lawyer assistance committees are exempt from the mandatory duty to report misconduct under Prof. Cond. R. 8.3(c). Confidentiality for judges is provided under Jud. Cond. R. 2.14. With the client's consent, we provide reports as necessary to admissions, discipline, courts, employers, etc.
Want to Know More?
If you are concerned for yourself or someone you know, confidential assistance is a telephone call or email away. You may contact me at 800-348-4343 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can learn more at www.ohiolap.org.
Scott R. Mote, Esq.
Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program, Inc.
1650 Lake Shore Drive, Suite 375
Columbus, Ohio 43204-4991
The Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program is a private, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to helping Ohio's judges, attorneys, and law students obtain treatment for substance abuse, chemical dependency, addiction, and mental health issues. OLAP has existed since 1991 and is active across the state of Ohio. Through OLAP, judges, attorneys, and law students receive:
Confidential advice about individual problems.
Help in arranging and implementing formal nterventions
Help in deciding between outpatient, inpatient, and other treatment programs
Monitoring and aftercare services