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    Inside the Bar: They Already Know

    If you need help handling life stresses, don’t try hiding your problems from your friends or colleagues. They probably already know. Instead, call the trained volunteers at WisLAP. They’re ready 24/7 now to help judges as well as lawyers, law students, and their families.

    George Brown

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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 81, No. 10, October 2008

    Inside the Bar

    They Already Know

    If you need help handling life stresses, don't try hiding your problems from your friends or colleagues. They probably already know. Instead, call the trained volunteers at WisLAP. They're ready 24/7 now to help judges as well as lawyers, law students, and their families.

    by George C. Brown,
    State Bar executive director

    George BrownLawyers are fixers. No, not in the slimy, offensive way that those who deride the profession would like people to think. Lawyers fix problems for other people. Whether a hard-charging litigator or a soft-spoken, detail-focused transactional lawyer, a lawyer's professional obligation puts him or her in the position of working to solve problems for other people.

    Solving others' problems brings with it a certain level of stress. While much work with the law can be routine, the upset divorce client, the unhappy company president, or the angry taxpayer are all too often visitors in lawyers' offices. They may leave satisfied, or at least with a solution, but the lawyer continues to carry the stress of the situation. In addition, because lawyers solve others' problems, often lawyers believe, as other people do, that they, and only they, can and should solve their own troubles.

    Life events can produce stress, and people have different abilities to handle the tension often caused by stress. Tension-reducing behaviors can be discussions with friends or family; exercise; or a drink, another drink, and maybe still another. We might resort to drugs, whether legal or illegal. Too much stress for too long also can result in depression or other emotional difficulties.

    Although we don't like to think it, judges are just as likely as lawyers, or maybe even more likely, to suffer from stress-related difficulties. While lawyers may advocate on behalf of a client, it is the judge who makes the decision that ultimately, and maybe permanently, affects the client's life. And although lawyers often are prominent members of the community, far more people usually recognize a judge and will be witness to any missteps the judge may take. When seeking help to overcome a problem, judges not only hold the same tendencies for self-reliance and aversion to seeking help as lawyers, they also face a higher risk of exposure for seeking such help.

    This is why the State Bar sponsors the Wisconsin Lawyer Assistance Program (WisLAP), and why the State Bar, with the support and encouragement of the courts, has created the Judicial Assistance Program.

    The lawyer and the judicial assistance programs work the same way. If you need help, or know of someone who needs help, whether a lawyer, a judge, a law student, or a member of their family, call the 24-hour confidential helpline at (800) 543-2625; or contact Linda Albert, LCSW, CSAC, the WisLAP coordinator at (800) 944-9404, ext. 6172. Linda is a licensed clinical social worker and a certified substance abuse clinician. WisLAP has trained volunteer lawyers and judges in how to address situations and they are prepared to assist you. Lawyers talk to lawyers and judges talk to judges. Lawyer volunteers received their biannual training in late September, and the first training for judges will take place in January 2009.

    If you know someone with a problem, talk with them, get them to call WisLAP. Or call on their behalf. If you have a problem, call. Don't try to tough it out. It will probably just get worse. And don't think you're hiding it from your friends or colleagues. They probably already know.




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