Once a lawyer, judge or law student signs a contract with FLA, they will be assigned a monitor/mentor to help them through the program. Individuals who volunteer to act as Florida Lawyers Assistance monitors play a critical role in assisting attorneys and bar applicants who need to prove their rehabilitation and recovery to The Florida Bar or Florida Board of Bar Examiners. They are the FLA representatives who likely will have the greatest personal contact with lawyers and applicants entering into an FLA contract. Without the ability to document and provide this evidence of recovery, many lawyers and applicants might not obtain or regain their license to practice law. Fortunately, over the years a relationship of mutual respect has developed between FLA, the Bar, and the Bar Examiners, and, in most instances, FLA’s recommendation that an individual be admitted or reinstated is given strong consideration. The credibility accorded FLA has been earned over time with the recognition that the vast majority of the individuals who receive favorable reports from FLA have gone on to conduct themselves as responsible attorneys. Just as importantly, the licensing and disciplinary authorities have come to understand that FLA will always be honest about providing negative reports if appropriate.
Some recovering attorneys have expressed their discomfort about acting as monitors, saying they are uncomfortable serving as “probation officers.” That position is understood and respected by FLA. There are others who value their anonymity and are concerned that it may be compromised through the monitoring process. Attorneys who express this reluctance can still provide valuable help to other lawyers, law students, bar applicants and judges by doing more traditional twelve-step work or by acting as volunteer mentors. While FLA has never advocated that recovering attorneys separate themselves from the recovering community, it does recognize that many of their issues need to be shared and processed with other lawyers who can relate and share their own experience, strength and hope. Our local support group meetings (both substance abuse and mental health) provide this type of forum. An attorney who has personal experience with addiction or mental health issues, recovery, and the practice of law can help another just by attending meetings. Twelve-step calls, sponsorship, or just giving a phone number to a new member are a few of the more traditional ways one can help the FLA client.
Mentoring basically amounts to serving as a role model who practices the principles of recovery in all his or her affairs, including the practice of law. New attorneys may need to learn how to practice law from one who does it in a healthy manner, while others may have to re-learn how to practice professionally. A number of experienced attorneys, recovering and otherwise, feel that many of the professional problems that exist today are due to the lack of mentoring available to new attorneys. To some extent, every recovering attorney is a role-model for the newcomer.
Application for Monitoring
Before volunteering one’s services as a monitor, the attorney should have an understanding of the general qualifications and responsibilities involved.
Qualifications. The monitor should fit the following basic profile:
In recovery for a minimum of two years.
Active in a 12 Step or other abstinence based program.
Have a sponsor or guide in the program and be familiar with the program’s principles and literature.
Be a member of The Florida Bar (or the bar of the state in which the attorney resides).
Be a licensed professional in a mental health related field or have successfully dealt with their own DSM diagnosed condition.
Need not be a legal professional.
Additionally, the monitor should make a realistic assessment of his or her job and family responsibilities to determine whether they can devote enough time to the monitoring task. Some attorneys with the best of intentions and the desire to be a monitor simply find that monitoring does not fit into their schedule, while other may need to retire from monitoring functions as career and family responsibilities increase. This is not fair to the client, and places unnecessary stress on both parties, as well as the FLA office staff who must account for monitor reports (for attorneys conditionally admitted or on probation) to the The Florida Bar or Board of Bar Examiners. Also, it is preferable, but not essential, that the monitor and the monitoree share some common ground, whether it be their history, their law school, their area of practice, or something similar.
Upon qualifying as a monitor, the individual will be provided with a personal web page on the Affinity eHealth client management web site. The monitor will be responsible for setting up their page, where they can access informational documents, receive messages, review their monitorees’ meeting lists and alerts, and file their monthly monitor reports. They will also be responsible for viewing the monitor training video when it becomes available on the Affinity web site.
 These criteria are aspirational. In some areas of the state, it may not be possible to find monitors who meet all criteria. In such situations, FLA will review qualifications on a case-by-case-basis, there have been many successful deviations in areas of the state where the attorney population is limited.