Something was wrong with Joe.
For 40 years he had been the most organized and focused attorney in the firm. He arrived at the office the same time every morning. He went home at the same time in the evening. He never missed an appointment or deadline. His desk was always neat.
But lately he was different. He would leave for lunch and not return until later in the day. He had to be reminded about phone calls and appointments – something that would have been unthinkable a few months earlier. He often seemed distracted.
The breaking point came when he showed up for a firm meeting and appeared confused about where he was.
Fortunately, his partners knew what to do. After speaking with his spouse and adult daughter, they contacted the Transitioning Lawyers Commission (TLC) of the NC Bar Association. Soon, with the help of trained professionals and a caring support network, Joe was transitioning out of full-time practice and into the next phase of his life journey.
A Little TLC Goes a Long Way
The Transitioning Lawyers Commission began as an initiative of the NCBA’s Retiring with Dignity Task Force in 2012. The program helps lawyers ease out of full-time practice. Nan Hannah was the founding chair; Mark Scruggs of Lawyers Mutual and Woody Connette of Essex Richards currently serve as Co-Chairs.
The underlying premise of TLC is that retirement need not be a dead end. It can instead be an exciting and productive reboot.
“Those who retire from the practice of law can still find activities which use their knowledge and skills to benefit society, but which impose less pressure in terms of deadlines and stress,” says the TLC web page. “And, maybe most important, many lawyers find ways to slow and wind down a practice as opposed to stopping cold turkey.”
How TLC Works
The process usually starts with call from a partner or loved one of a lawyer who is showing signs of cognitive impairment or similar issues affecting their ability to practice law. A trained volunteer steps in and consults with the lawyer, family and colleagues to identify the underlying issues and come up with a plan. That might include cognitive testing or a more thorough cognitive assessment.
Everything is kept confidential – even possible ethical breaches that the lawyer might have committed. That’s because TLC has been designated as a Lawyers Assistance Program (LAP) by the North Carolina State Bar.
TLC Wins National Recognition
The program is working. This spring, the Bar Association learned TLC has been chosen as a winner of the 2015 NABE LexisNexis Community & Educational Outreach Award. Nan Hannah will accept the award at this year's ABA annual meeting in Chicago.
Do you know a lawyer who might benefit from a little TLC? Consider making a referral today.
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney who has practiced North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org