Oregon State Bar Bulletin — JUNE 2008
Parting Thoughts
Support Change
The Oregon Lawyer Assistance Foundation
By David Culpepper

We are proud members of the legal profession. We are Advocates. Efficient. Productive. Direct. Powerful. However, many of us are also suffering. Severely depressed. Addicted to legal and illegal drugs. Struggling with alcohol. Bipolar. Problem gamblers. If this doesn’t sound like the legal profession to you, consider these humbling statistics:

Why are we bringing this to your attention? To let you know about — and to ask your support for — the Oregon Lawyers Assistance Foundation (OLAF). OLAF is a new tax-exempt foundation that provides grants to lawyers who are in financial need for addiction and mental health treatment. OLAF is modeled after similar pioneering foundations in Massachusetts, Maryland and Alabama.

Why should you care? Because lawyers who suffer with these issues may be among your colleagues, your law school alumni and your partners.

The legal profession in Oregon is very lucky. We have the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP), which offers a broad range of personal assistance, including addiction intervention, recovery support, crisis intervention, and counseling — to lawyers, judges, law students and members of the legal community. We are a cohesive and closely connected legal community that encourages health and well-being.

Unfortunately, these resources are not enough. Incredibly, being sufficiently courageous and motivated to accept the need for treatment isn’t always enough, either. Treatment often costs out-of-pocket money. Some lawyers lack insurance coverage for needed addiction or mental health treatment or are unable to pay for the uninsured portion of treatment. Sometimes needed treatment is not offered through public assistance or through professionals who offer services for a reduced fee. For many affected lawyers, this inability to pay for treatment is the final insurmountable hurdle.

This need inspired the creation of the Oregon Lawyer Assistance Foundation.

A lawyer in need must meet OLAF criteria, including working with the OAAP. The OAAP helps the qualifying lawyer submit a confidential (no-names) request for a grant. Grants are made directly to the professional service provider. All grants issued by OLAF come with a request that the lawyer contribute back to the foundation when the lawyer returns to health. Funding provided by OLAF is not available from any other organization.

It is especially hard for lawyers to "step out front" and admit the need for help. When they do step forward for help, it is crucial that they receive it. Your financial contribution will help a courageous lawyer access treatment — and will support changing his or her desperate situation into a positive contribution to the legal profession.

We hope that you and your firm will be part of this inspired solution. Your donation will help a lawyer you know and care personally about, a colleague in the community, or someone you will someday meet.

David Culpepper is president of the Oregon Lawyers Assistance Foundation and a partner with the Portland firm Thede Culpepper Moore Munro & Silliman. The author thanks Barbara Fishleder, executive director of the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program, for her assistance in writing this column.

For more information about OLAF, contact one of the foundation’s board members: David Culpepper (503) 416-6146; Barbara Fishleder (503) 684-7425; Wallace Carson (503) 364-7250; Lois Rosenbaum (503) 294-9293 or Robert Moore (503) 499-4486.

To make a donation to OLAF, contact David Culpepper at Thede Culpepper Moore Munro & Silliman LLP, 3675 U.S. Bancorp Tower, 111 S.W. Fifth Ave, Portland, OR 97204.

© 2008 David Culpepper

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