WHAT WE DO
Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc. is a non-profit corporation formed in 1986 in response to the Florida Supreme Court’s mandate that a program be created to identify and offer assistance to bar members who suffer from substance abuse, mental health, or other disorders which negatively affect their lives and careers (Bar Rule 2-9.11).
FLA is independent of The Florida Bar, although it does receive funding from that organization. Paramount to FLA is the protection of confidentiality for those attorneys who contact FLA for help. Confidentiality in voluntary cases is protected by a written contract with The Florida Bar which guarantees the confidentiality of FLA records, as well as by Bar Rule 3-7.1(j), Chap. 397.482-486, F.S., and other state and federal regulations. Judges, attorneys, and law students who seek the assistance of FLA need not worry that FLA will report them to the Bar, the Board of Bar Examiners, or their employer. Information is shared with these entities only if the participating individual signs a waiver of confidentiality.
FLA’s primary purpose is to assist the impaired attorney in his or her recovery. Florida Lawyers Assistance takes the firm position that substance abuse, compulsive behavior, and psychological problems are treatable illnesses rather than moral issues. Our experience has shown that the only stigma attached to these illnesses is an individual’s failure to seek help. FLA believes it is the responsibility of the legal community to help our colleagues who may not recognize their need for assistance.
In an effort to achieve it’s mission, FLA, through its over 300 volunteer legal professionals, has promoted the formation of over 30 weekly support groups throughout Florida for lawyers, judges, and law students. Some of these groups focus on substance abuse issues and are attended by legal professionals in recovery or who wish to learn more about the recovery process. Other groups assist legal professionals dealing with mental health issues or dual disorders. The groups meet at a designated location each week for approximately one hour.
Attorneys, judges, and law students recovering from substance abuse, or those who are interested in entering the recovery process, are invited to attend an FLA lawyer/law student support meeting whether or not they have disciplinary or bar admission problems. Particular issues affecting the recovering lawyer and the maintenance of their recovery while contending with the pressures and ethical questions inherent in the practice of law or the bar admission process are regularly discussed. The groups are completely confidential, and no record of attendance or issues raised is reported to FLA or to the Bar (unless required by terms of probation or conditional admission).
For those legal professionals dealing with mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder, dual diagnoses, or other compulsive disorders, FLA also sponsors facilitated support meetings. These meetings are run by licensed mental health professionals to whom a nominal fee is paid by the participants. As with the chemical dependency support meetings, the groups are confidential unless reporting is a requirement of probation or conditional admission.