Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues in the Legal Profession: Am I My Brother’s Keeper? (Online Seminar)

MCLE Credits: 2.0
Ethics Credits Included: 2.0

MCLE Credit: 2.0 (Ethics: 2.0)
Live-Interactive Credit: 0.0
Designation Credit: 2.0 Ethics (Designations Information)
Price: $149 (Includes a downloadable audio version.)
Viewable Through: 10/04/2021


A pre-recorded streaming video replay of the October 2018 webcast, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues in the Legal Profession: Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Topics Covered

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” … Yes, you are, from multiple perspectives. The data about law students and lawyers suffering from mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety, and alcohol and substance abuse is startling and compels us, as a self-regulating profession, to action. Our faculty presents how we care for one another ethically and professionally.

  • Learn what the Rules of Professional Conduct require and what the Legal Ethics Opinions instruct, and consider and discuss the profession’s obligation to intervene when necessary, even if not required by the Rules, in order to assure public protection and to ensure lawyers enjoy the continued privilege of self-regulation
  • Learn the steps lawyers should take when faced with substance abuse or mental health issues themselves or with colleagues
  • Understand and appreciate that those who are suffering from addiction or mental health disorders do not understand or accept that they have a problem—and worse, when and if they focus on their problem they have no idea how to solve or address their problems—they need/want those around them to offer a helping hand; learn how to effectively assist your colleague in need
  • Learn how to get confidential help from Lawyers Helping Lawyers
  • Learn steps that you can and should take as a supervisor or team leader of attorneys in your firm
  • Learn what assistance is available in Virginia for those who are suffering from addiction or mental health disorders and for those who understand their role is truly “My Brother’s Keeper”!

Our outstanding faculty will review the ethical duties of Virginia attorneys who are dealing with those colleagues who may have addiction or mental health issues as well as what assistance is available in Virginia to those who are suffering from these issues.

Learn how to get confidential help from Lawyers Helping Lawyers, Virginia’s Lawyers Assistance Program, for yourself or a colleague. Our faculty will discuss the steps lawyers should take when faced with substance abuse or mental health issues.

  • What is a lawyer's ethical duty when he or she has reason to believe that a lawyer is having problems?
  • What if that lawyer is a member of your firm?  Opposing counsel in a case?
  • What actions should the other lawyers in a law firm take to protect clients if one of their members has a problem?
  • Must they, for example, take over client files and, if so, what should they tell the client?
  • Can a lawyer discharge his ethical duty under Rule 8.3 merely by reporting the lawyer to a Lawyers Assistance Program or Lawyers Helping Lawyers?
  • Would your answer depend on whether you knew of any misconduct that required reporting to the bar?
  • Is depression or substance abuse by a lawyer misconduct that must be reported to the bar?
  • What bar disciplinary proceedings are triggered for lawyers when they are convicted of a felony?
  • Are all felonies the same for purposes of a lawyer losing his or her license?
  • Should lawyers suffer discipline for criminal conduct that is purely personal and not related to the practice of law?
  • Is a lawyer required to self-report to the bar that he or she has been convicted of a felony?
  • If a lawyer is suspended or disbarred, may another law firm hire the suspended or disbarred lawyer?  If so, in what capacity and under what terms and conditions?

Lawyers Helping Lawyers offers free, confidential help that is not part of the disciplinary system of the Virginia State Bar. See more at Call a 24-hour hotline at 1-877-545-4682.

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Renu M. Brennan Virginia State Bar / Richmond

Renu Brennan is the Deputy Executive Director of the Virginia State Bar. From 2008 to February 2016, she served as Assistant Bar Counsel for the Bar. She prosecuted many cases throughout the Commonwealth before district committees, the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board, and three-judge panels. Additionally, she has taught CLEs on various subjects, including the need to support lawyer wellness, aging attorneys, and the disciplinary process. Ms. Brennan is Secretary of Lawyers Helping Lawyers and is a member of the ABA Standing Committee on Client Protection. She was a faculty member for the Virginia State Bar Harry L. Carrico Professionalism Course from 2008 to 2011, and she has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Virginia since 2007. She also served as Co-Chair of the Judicial Nominations Committee of APABA-VA from 2009 to 2011. Ms. Brennan participated as an instructor in the Virginia Bar Association’s Rule of Law program. Prior to coming to the Bar, she was a partner with the firm of Vandeventer Black, LLP, where she handled professional malpractice and commercial litigation. From 1998 to 2004, Ms. Brennan was with the firm of Wright, Robinson, Osthimer & Tatum in Richmond, Virginia. Ms. Brennan is licensed in Virginia, the District of Columbia, and California, where she practiced in Los Angeles. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and a law degree from Boston University School of Law.

James M. McCauley, Virginia State Bar / Richmond

James M. McCauley is the Ethics Counsel for the Virginia State Bar. He serves as staff liaison to the Virginia State Bar’s Standing Committee on Legal Ethics and manages the staff in the Legal Ethics Department and the Legal Ethics Hotline. Mr. McCauley served on the faculty of the Virginia State Bar’s Mandatory Professionalism Course from 2004–2010. He teaches Professional Responsibility at the T.C. Williams School of Law in Richmond, Virginia and served on the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Legal Ethics and Professionalism from 2008-2011.  He serves on the Planning Committee for the ABA’s Center for Professional Responsibility Annual Conference and the Lawyer Advertising Committee for the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers.  Mr. McCauley is a Fellow of the Virginia Law Foundation and American Bar Foundation.

David S. Mercer, MercerTrigiani / Alexandria

David Mercer is a founding partner of MercerTrigiani, a law firm in Alexandria, Virginia, providing representation to community associations.  He was previously a partner in the Tysons Corner, Virginia, office of Troutman Sanders LLP, where he served as managing partner from 1997 to 1998.  He has been practicing real estate law for more than 45 years, with a concentration on representation of common interest community associations.
Mr. Mercer served on the Board and as Chair of the Board of Directors of The Campagna Center in Alexandria, Virginia.  He previously has also served as a member of the Board of Directors of Rebuilding Together Alexandria.  He was elected in 2013 to the Board of Governors of the Virginia Bar Association and served as President of the Virginia Bar Association in 2017. 

Mr. Mercer was a member and Chair of the Virginia Bar Association Substance Abuse Committee, responsible for administering the “Lawyers Helping Lawyers” program.  In 1999, he was awarded the James R. Treese Award for his work and leadership in substance abuse programs.  In 2002, he was among the volunteer leaders who worked to establish “Lawyers Helping Lawyers” as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and to expand its mission to include mental health issues.  He is a regular presenter of continuing legal education programs about substance abuse.  Mr. Mercer served as President of Lawyers Helping Lawyers in 2003 and 2004.  In 2006 for his work on behalf of “Lawyers Helping Lawyers,” he received the Caron Foundation Legal Professional Award in 2012.

Robert M. Rolfe, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP / Richmond

Robert Rolfe has been a commercial litigator for 42 years and has handled a variety of cases at the trial and appellate level—among them internal investigations, legal malpractice and other law firm–related problems, disputes involving the energy industry, construction litigation and corporate governance cases.  For more than 20 years, he has served as the general counsel of Hunton Andrews Kurth, an international firm with close to 1000 lawyers.  He has handled virtually every kind of legal issue that major law firms and their lawyers encounter.  Among those issues have been addiction, substance abuse and other impairments affecting the firm’s lawyers.  He has seen the risks posed by these issues to clients, the affected lawyers and their colleagues, as well as to the firm.  With much support from management and his colleagues at his firm, he has witnessed a number of successful efforts to address these problems with the affected lawyers.

Michael E. Sievers / Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP Richmond

Michael Sievers focuses his practice on commercial real estate and energy transactions, as well as unmanned aircraft systems (aka "drones"). He has extensive experience with tax credit-generating real estate investments, as well as traditional commercial real estate leasing, acquisition, disposition, and financing. Michael is also co-chair of the firm's Unmanned Aircraft Systems practice. His unmanned aircraft systems practice involves assisting clients with all aspects of integrating these emerging technologies into their business practices.

He has been tapped by several media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and he has given educational presentations on the topic. He has provided subject matter expertise to the Virginia Israel Advisory Board, an agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia.Michael also serves his firm, colleagues, coworkers, and their family members in an unnamed role by acting as a resource to individuals and/or firm management in seeking to address substance abuse and mental health issues in a holistic and sensitive manner. He is a volunteer with Virginia's "Lawyers Helping Lawyers" and has served multiple terms on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond

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