woman juggling files

At one time or another, most lawyers and paralegals will have seen a family member, a friend, or a colleague struggling with health or addiction issues. Undoubtedly, a good number of those reading this column will have themselves struggled with health issues at some point during the course of their career.

Historically, the profession has largely ignored mental health issues but thankfully, in recent years greater attention is being paid to them. This new attention is good news for those who have suffered in silence without help, and it is also good news for LAWPRO.

While we don’t have hard statistics, anecdotally it is clear to us that mental health issues can contribute to malpractice claims, sometimes in a small way, sometimes in a major way. All too often, we see a large group of claims occur when someone has had issues serious enough to cause them to drop the ball on multiple files. These clusters of claims are frequently very expensive for us. But even more frustrating is the fact that friends or colleagues of the lawyer often missed or ignored the warning signs.

When claims are first reported to us, or throughout the initial stages of dealing with them, there are usually few, if any, indicators that mental health issues are a contributing cause. As work proceeds on the claim, our claims professionals or defence counsel may see something that hints that a mental health issue is a driver of the claim. It is fairly uncommon for LAWPRO insureds to acknowledge that their struggle with a personal or health issue caused the claim.

The articles in this issue of LAWPRO Magazine will help you better appreciate when you or a colleague can benefit from getting some help to deal with a personal issue. They will also give you an appreciation of the many resources that are available to help lawyers dealing with personal issues. LAWPRO believes lawyers can take proactive steps to help them avoid claims, and this is no less the case when it comes to dealing with personal or health issues. For this reason, LAWPRO is a supporter of the law society’s Member Assistance Program (MAP). On an annual basis LAWPRO contributes roughly half the cost of operating the program.

It is gratifying to see that more lawyers and paralegals are making use of the resources provided by the MAP. I’m very pleased to support the MAP and the resources and assistance it offers to Ontario lawyers and paralegals. I am particularly excited about the new, user-friendly online portal that provides a large library of health and wellness assessments and self-directed learning resources. Take the time to make yourself familiar with the resources that the MAP offers by visiting myassistplan.com. If you see someone that you think might be struggling with a personal issue, gently reach out to them and see if you can help them get help. If you find yourself dealing with personal issues at some point, please reach out for help from one of the many resources that are now available or talk to a trusted friend or colleague if you need help reaching out for help.

While it may be hard for them – or you – to see a way out of a dreadful circumstance, help is available and in most cases a full recovery is possible.

Daniel E. Pinnington
President & CEO