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    April 11th, 2022

    Lady Justice at the Supreme Courts, Vancouver, BC

    ( © 2012 Prov. of BC https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)

     

    ♫ I can have it all
    Now I’m dancing for my life…

    – Music and Lyrics by Giorgio Moroder, Lyrics by Keith Forsey and Irene Cara; performed by Cara.

    When it comes to going beyond private practice, a few law graduates have taken things perhaps just a bit further than most.

    Take Mark Ciavarella. He was a President Judge of the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania. He pled guilty in 2009 to “federal charges of honest services fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion in connection with receiving $2.6 million in kickbacks from Robert Powell (himself an attorney) and Robert Mericle, the co-owner and builder respectively, of two private, for-profit juvenile facilities of PA Child Care” (per Wikipedia). How did he earn these kickbacks, you ask? By sentencing children to stays in juvenile detention for crimes such as “mocking a principal on Myspace, trespassing in a vacant building, and shoplifting DVDs from Walmart.”

    Then there is Minnesota attorney Thomas P. Lowe. Now Thomas isn’t the first lawyer to have sex with his client (and almost certainly not the last). He distinguished himself by taking things one step further and billing his client for his time having sex, characterizing these activities as “drafting memos” and “meetings” (per Business Insider). This earned him a professional misconduct citation, among other things.

    Stealing from clients is bad; stealing from orphaned children is in a class all its own. Yet that is what attorney John Milton Merritt did. He plead guilty to 12 counts of using forged court orders to defraud clients. Among those clients were four orphaned girls whose parents were killed in a 2002 car crash and a boy injured in a 2005 car accident. In total, Mr. Merritt stole just under $450,000 from the children and $1.7 million in total (per Huffpost).

    However, not many lawyers make such an impact as Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known by his alias, Lenin. He played a leading role in the October Revolution, in which the Bolsheviks overthrew Russia and the Tsars (per Wikipedia).

    He served as head of government of Soviet Russia from 1917 to 1924 and of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1924. Under his administration, Russia and then the wider Soviet Union became a one-party communist state governed by the Russian Communist Party.

    Genocide scholar Adam Jones claims that “there is very little in the record of human experience to match the violence unleashed between 1917, when the Bolsheviks took power, and 1953, when Joseph Stalin died and the Soviet Union moved to adopt a more restrained and largely non-murderous domestic policy” (per Wikipedia). Robert Conquest, in his book, estimates the communist leaders of the Soviet Union were responsible for no fewer than 15 million deaths.

    On a different scale, take lawyer Brett Hartley of Florida who was disbarred by The Florida Supreme Court. What did he do? He used his lawyer trust account as a business operating account for an adult entertainment business in Jacksonville, Florida called Flash Dancers. He also abandoned his practice, misappropriated client funds, failed to pay back $255,000 from his father in law after two payments, and had a substance abuse problem.

    This all goes to show that if you throw the ethics book out the window, you can seemingly have it all, provided you don’t mind — dancing for your life.

    Resources to assist with personal, drug, alcohol and other issues

    Since many lawyers who get into ethical troubles do so as a result of alcohol or drug dependence, mental health issues, stress, depression, parenting and elder care issues and other challenging life situations, there are a number of resources available to assist lawyers and in many cases, their staff and families deal with these issues before they become overwhelming. Here is an overview of some of the resources available in BC.  There will be similar programs available in other provinces and states – check with your bar association, practice management advisor or ethics counsel.

    Lawyers Assistance Program (“LAP”) (lapbc.com) LAPBC is an independent organization of members of the BC legal community (lawyers, judges, families and support staff) for members of the legal community.

    LAP provides peer support, resources and referral services to help people deal with personal problems — including alcohol and drug dependence, mental health issues, stress and anxiety, relationships issues, including familial issues, professional concerns, depression and other issues. They are available 24/7. Call 604-685-2171 or 1-888-685-2171 or email info@lapbc.com.

    Mood Disorders Society of Canada (mdsc.ca)

    Mental health resources.

    Law Society of BC

    LifeWorks Canada The Law Society funds LifeWorks Canada’s personal counselling and referral services. Services are confidential and available at no cost to individual BC lawyers, articled students and their immediate families. LifeWorks can “help with life’s questions, issues and concerns — handling stress, maintaining relationships, challenges at work, parenting and childcare, managing money, caring for an older relative or health issues.”

    Contact LifeWorks 24/7:

    • Calling the toll-free number: 1-888-307-0590 for a confidential in-person call.
    • Log in to login.lifeworks.com to learn more about the services Lifeworks provides, including website materials and access to a confidential online chat or in-person call:
      • Username: lawsocietybc
      • Password: healthy
    • Download the free app on Android or IOS — simply search for “Lifeworks.” Once downloaded, open the app, click on “log in” and enter your Username and Password: lawsocietybc/healthy

    Maternity Leave Benefits Program The LSBC offers a maternity leave benefit loan program to assist self-employed women lawyers who do not have access to maternity and parental financial benefits other than government programs remain in practice. To be eligible for the loan, you have to meet all of the requirements listed here. The program provides a loan of $2,000 per month for four months to help with overhead costs during a maternity leave.

    Equity Ombudsman Claire Marchant is the Equity Ombudsman at the LSBC. She can assist with resolving concerns about discrimination and discriminatory harassment. Lawyers, articled students, law students and support staff of legal employers are all free to contact the Equity Ombudsperson. The service is voluntary, confidential and free to participants. Contact Claire: equity@lsbc.org or call 604-605-5303.

    Drug and Alcohol Resources

    Watching a spouse, child or other family member deal with drug, alcohol or mental health issues can present you with one of the most challenging life situations you can ever face. There are many resources available to assist you in this journey.

    HealthLinkBC lists many resources, including how to reach out for help for: suicide, mental health, kids help, alcohol and drug resources and other information. It also lists resources such as how to talk to teens, how to talk to adult children and what your health authority can offer by way of assistance. healthlinkbc.ca/substance-use/parenting-articles.

    Alcohol and Drug Information Referral Service It’s free, confidential, and available 24/7. Call 1-800-663-1441 or 604-660-9382 in the Lower Mainland.

    Gambling Support Line 1-888-795-6111

    Depression and Mental Health Resources (cmha.bc.ca)

    HeretoHelp.bc.ca lists a number of resources available to help deal with depression, mood disorders and more.

    There are many other resources available in the province, some of which are specific to communities. For example, call or text 211 to access free information and referral to a full range of community, social, and government services, 24/7 in the Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Squamish-Lillooet and Sunshine Coast Regional Districts.

    (originally published in PracticeTalk and TechTips in the Canadian Bar Association’s BarTalk magazine:

    https://www.cbabc.org/BarTalk/Articles/2020/April/Columns/Going-Where-Few-Have-Gone-Before

    https://www.cbabc.org/BarTalk/Articles/2020/April/Columns/There-are-many-resources-available-to-assist-lawye)

    © 2022 David J. Bilinsky

    This entry was posted on Monday, April 11th, 2022 at 8:00 am and is filed under Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Tips, Trends. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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