This past August, I gave welcoming remarks at the annual WisLAP Volunteer/Judicial Training. In attendance were approximately 100 State Bar members. And it’s been on my mind ever since. I’ve been thinking about lawyers and judges whom I’ve known over the years who needed help. The following stories are true; the names have been changed to protect identities.
Larry was a lawyer I would see occasionally in the courthouse as well as at youth sporting events. We knew each other well enough to say hello but nothing beyond. Larry seemed like a “regular guy.” Then I started to hear rumors that he had an alcohol problem, that is, a pending OWI-3rd. I also heard that his wife had filed for divorce. The pending OWI case became a conviction with a jail sentence. The divorce was granted.
com pfiedler axley Patrick J. Fiedler, Marquette 1980, is a litigator with Axley Brynelson LLP, in Madison.
Joe was a former student of mine. He is bright, articulate, personable, and fun to be around. He also has a serious substance-abuse problem. It cost him a job and resulted in criminal prosecution. I know Joe better than I do Larry, but I have not had any contact with Joe in several years. Joe also seemed like a “regular guy.”
Doug was a friend from another part of the state. We had infrequent contacts but enjoyed the few contacts that we had. Doug never exhibited any signs of a substance-abuse problem or any problem at all. I never heard any rumors that he was having any problems. He was well respected by all who knew him. Doug was a “regular guy.” Several years ago, Doug took his own life.
To my knowledge, Larry, Joe, and Doug never knew each other. They did have at least a few things in common. They had substance-abuse problems or problems with depression, they were members of the State Bar, and they could have benefitted from WisLAP (Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program).
“Lawyers and judges are used to helping others with their problems. It can be difficult to tell someone else that we may have problems of our own.”
WisLAP is one of the State Bar’s member benefits. At the helm is WisLAP manager org lalbert wisbar Linda Albert. Linda would be the first to say that the strength of WisLAP lies with its “peer assistants.” Currently there are approximately 140 lawyers and judges on the WisLAP volunteer roster. They are each required to attend training every two years. They offer assistance to other members of the profession who struggle with alcohol, drug abuse, depression, and stress. These volunteers understand that the legal profession can be very isolating. Lawyers and judges are used to helping others with their problems. It can be difficult to tell someone else that we may have problems of our own.
WisLAP is confidential. It offers you the option of working with a lawyer or a judge volunteer. It offers assistance to lawyers, judges, families, and law students. It serves as a guide and helps people navigate the system. And WisLAP defines success as “helping an individual return to a place of health and well-being.”
Need help? Know someone else who needs help? Call the WisLAP Helpline, (800) 543-2625. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to offer help.