One of the key partners in our firm seems to have developed a
drinking problem. For years he was known for a certain, shall we
say, exuberance at social events, but within the past six to 12
months his drinking has been affecting his work, which has become
sloppier, and the impression of clients, who have commented that
his speech is slurred and his thought process seems duller when
they call him. He is (when sober) brilliant and capable, and has
also been a major rainmaker, so we really do not want to lose him,
but we feel like we need to do something, perhaps send him away
somewhere to get him to quit drinking?
It is worth conferring with LCL clinical staff to more fully
assess what is going on with this colleague, but the idea you seem
to be referring to, i.e., requiring him to go to rehab, is
certainly a distinct possibility. Some things to think through as
you contemplate taking action:
- Prepare before acting: Before what amounts to an
"intervention," we would suggest meeting with LCL staff (or
equivalently qualified/experienced behavioral health professionals)
to double-check your assessment of the situation, brainstorm
approaches to addressing it (including rehab) and, if intervening,
move ahead in a way that has been thought through.
- Cost/insurance: Rehabs are very expensive and, for the most
part, generally not covered by insurance. This may not be an issue
for a large firm. If, however, insurance coverage were necessary,
we can discuss options such as simple detox (usually a few days)
followed by a two to three week day or evening program.
- Choosing a reputable facility: There are many, many rehabs
around the country, all of which look great on their websites, but
you probably want to choose one that is mainstream and that has
been around and respected for decades.
- No guarantees of success: Even with rehab, which can provide a
crucial jump-start, sustaining sobriety requires real motivation,
and even among those who are motivated, the relapse rate is high
(though the improvement rate is also high, and relapses can be
regarded as expectable stumbles on the path).
- Aftercare: Long-term recovery (and return to previous level of
job functioning) is determined less by rehab than by ongoing
recovery-oriented attention and activity. The more frequently he
attends therapy/counseling, peer support meetings and ancillary
stabilizing practices like exercise and meditation, the better the
likelihood of a positive outcome. If recovery becomes a secondary
priority in the early months, the chances of relapse increase.
- The firm's influence: Like the alcoholic or addict, if the
partners think the problem is solved merely by having sent the
lawyer to rehab, old behavior may very well resurface. Ideally, the
firm will be both highly supportive (e.g., facilitate allocating
time to outpatient treatment) and still require appropriate
follow-up, taking action quickly upon signs of relapse. Some firms
might choose to involve the person in LCL "Monitoring" (in which
LCL documents participation in appropriate ongoing treatment and
support groups and provides random alcohol/drug testing), but that
will only have a meaningful impact if there is a real response if
and when this partner fails to follow through. Lawyers, perhaps
especially those who have reached the partner level, may feel that
the usual guidelines don't apply to them - going along with that
point of view actually heightens the risk that you may ultimately
lose this valuable colleague as an asset to the firm.
These are difficult waters to navigate, and LCL is here to
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