Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Lawyer Assistance Program (“LAP”)?
It is a confidential program of assistance, funded by the State Bar, for all North Carolina lawyers, judges and law students.
What is the cost?
Free. It is a free service that is covered by payment of your State Bar dues.
What does the LAP actually do? How can the LAP help me?
The LAP can meet with you on any issues of concern: anything from stress and burn out or career counseling to more serious issues. Depending upon the issues, the LAP clinician might recommend any of the following actions:
- we may have some individual counseling sessions with you;
- we may refer you to a private therapist or counselor;
- we have lunches and support group meetings around the state and it may be that a group in your area might be a good fit for the issue you are dealing with;
- LAP volunteers provide mentoring and support; we might put you in touch with some lawyers who have been through something similar, so they can share their experience and offer support and suggestions;
- we might help you locate a suitable in-patient treatment center whether for you or for a family member (like a young adult child);
- if you let us know you want to stop practicing law temporarily for any reason at all (even just because of stress with no formal diagnosis of any impairment), we can advise you/guide you on how to quietly and confidentially do that;
- whatever is happening in your life, we work with you individually to figure out the best course of action for you in your given circumstances.
What if I don’t live in Raleigh or Charlotte?
Our clinical staff members often drive to meet lawyers who live in distant rural areas. We regularly meet lawyers at a half-way point if it is a very long drive. We also have volunteers across the state who we work with closely and who may be located near you. Because we have support groups happening in various cities, our staff is often on the road and may already have plans to travel to a city near you. We can always find a way to make it work.
What is the LAP Committee?
The LAP Committee is a committee of peer counselor volunteers of the Lawyer Assistance Program (formerly the “PALS” and “FRIENDS” volunteers) who have experience and/or expertise in confidentially assisting lawyers dealing with problems of depression, anxiety, codependency, work-life balance, alcoholism, drug addiction and other issues. The LAP Committee volunteers sign confidentiality agreements and receive on-going training in their role as peer counselors.
Is the LAP really confidential?
Yes. Your information is never conveyed to anyone outside of the LAP program without a written release signed by you. This means we do not speak to your family members, your law partners, your friends or colleagues or any State Bar staff (or anyone else).
What is the relation between the LAP and the State Bar’s discipline function?
The LAP is an entirely separate program from discipline. They have entirely different functions. Discipline is reactive; it responds to ethical breaches. The LAP is preventive. The LAP seeks to provide assistance for personal problems a lawyer may have that if not addressed could lead to the lawyer becoming involved in the discipline process. All communications with the LAP are confidential and protected by Rule 1.6 of the Revised Rules of Professional Conduct. The LAP does not communicate any information to any other department of the Bar, including discipline and discipline has no access to LAP files or communications.
If I contact the LAP will anything I tell the LAP be disclosed to the discipline arm of the bar?
What happens if I am involved with the LAP, but later something comes up and I become involved in the discipline process? Will the LAP disclose anything in that situation?
No. If you later become involved in the discipline process, you may choose to disclose your LAP participation or you may choose to enter into a LAP deferral where you ask the LAP to report compliance with clinical recommendations to the grievance committee, but LAP does not disclose it unless you ask us to do so in writing.
I think I have a drinking problem. Am I going to get into trouble with the discipline arm of the bar if I seek help for that?
No. Drinking does not violate the rules of professional conduct and is not in and of itself an ethical violation. There is no reason not to seek help. If left unchecked, however, drinking may lead to a lawyer commit an ethical violation. Excessive drinking can also cause a lawyer to be so impaired that he or she is functionally and practically disabled and unable to practice law competently. The discipline arm of the bar only prosecutes violations of the rules of professional conduct and seeks to prevent lawyers who may be disabled and unable to practice from harming the public. There is no reason not to seek help. Visit our alcohol or other drug problems page for more information.
I am worried about a colleague (friend, family member) who is a lawyer. I want them to get some help, but I am worried that if they knew I called, they would feel betrayed and it would hurt the relationship. If I call the LAP to make a referral, will you reveal to the lawyer that I am the one who called?
If I call the LAP to make a referral about a colleague (friend, family member) who is a lawyer, what will the LAP do?
It depends upon the situation, and one of our clinical staff will talk with you to get as much detail as possible in order to better understand the situation and how we might be of assistance. Often, but not always, we ask two volunteers who have been through something similar to reach out to the distressed lawyer. We have found most lawyers are willing to take the meeting with our volunteers even if they are not willing to accept help at that moment in time. It plants a seed, and many of our clients report that they called the volunteers back some months later at a time they were willing to get assistance.
I am a law student and I have issues in my past that are going to show up on my character and fitness application to the Bar. What should I do?
Call the LAP as early as possible in your law school career so that we can assess the situation and offer suggestions about the best course of action.
What does it take to become a volunteer with the LAP?
Click here for complete information about being a volunteer.
What is the difference between LAP and BarCARES?
The Lawyer Assistance Program “LAP” is a free and confidential program offered by the N.C. State Bar. LAP has therapists on staff and provides intake, short term in-house counseling, referral to outside therapists/counselors or other treatment providers (including therapists who are part of the BarCARES network of providers), ongoing case management and long-term follow-up and support. LAP has a cadre of trained lawyer volunteers who have dealt with and overcome the most common issues lawyers encounter. These volunteers serve as mentors to lawyers who reach out to LAP and provide their own experience as to what worked for them. LAP also hosts lawyer peer support and discussion groups across the state.
BarCARES is a separate, confidential, short-term program provided by the North Carolina Bar Association, cost-free to members of participating judicial district bars, voluntary bar associations and law schools. BarCARES provides referral for 1-to-3 free counseling sessions to lawyers in qualifying districts. All BarCARES contact is made through HRC Behavioral Health & Psychiatry, P.A., the organization that administers the BarCARES program. If you would like additional information about the program and/or its availability in your area, please contact the BarCARES coordinator at 919-929-1227 or 1-800-640-0735 or visit www.barcares.org.
The BarCARES program is made possible by BarCARES of North Carolina, Inc., the North Carolina Bar Association, the North Carolina Bar Association Foundation and Lawyers Insurance Agency, as well as participating judicial district bars, voluntary bar associations, law schools and the NCBA Paralegal Division.
BarCARES and LAP work cooperatively and cross-refer. For example, if a lawyer contacts LAP and is a member of the NCBA or a member of a participating judicial district bar, voluntary bar association or law school, in the event counseling is recommended, LAP will refer the lawyer to a therapist in the BarCARES referral network for a few free counseling sessions to start the process. Similarly, if a lawyer has been seeing a therapist within the BarCARES network, and the therapist thinks the lawyer would benefit from additional support like speaking to peers who have overcome similar issues, the therapist will recommend that the lawyer contact LAP.
Both programs are confidential and work together for the good of North Carolina’s legal community.