published September 7, 2015

The Drug & Alcohol Policy No Law Firm Should Be Without

Implement a drug and alcohol policy in your law firm to protect it.

Having a set of guidelines for attorneys and other employees in your law firm is vital so that everyone knows what to expect. Developing policies for family leave, time off, professional conduct, and other areas provide a solid foundation to fall back on in case any questions about these benefits and policies arise for employees of the firm.

A policy you should consider implementing in your law firm is one regarding drug and alcohol use at the firm by attorneys or other employees. To get you started on implementing this, review the following model policy that you can adapt for your law firm.

Model Law Firm Drug and Alcohol Policy

A. Policy and Purposes

The Firm's policy is to establish and maintain effective methods for providing assistance to its personnel who have impairments of varying natures and severities due to drug and alcohol abuse and dependency. The firm's policy is to accomplish this objective through early intervention, counseling, treatment and rehabilitation by qualified outside agencies and persons. The purpose of the policy and guidelines is to provide persons with these impairments the opportunity to seek counsel, support, treatment and rehabilitation. The policy applies to all personnel, whether full-time, part-time, contract or temporary.

The Firm has a long history of providing sensitive and compassionate support to its personnel who encounter difficulties due to drug and alcohol abuse and dependency. The firm has recognized, and will continue to recognize, the significant human cost that can flow from the damaging effects of drug and alcohol abuse. Moreover, the impairment of personnel, at any level within the firm, threatens the achievement of the Firm's objectives of furnishing quality legal services in accordance with the highest professional standards, of providing a work atmosphere that will attract competent and dedicated lawyers and support personnel and of maintaining the firm's reputation within the legal community and with the public. It is therefore the Firm's policy to avoid the consequences to which the impairment of its personnel can lead, such as familial problems, health difficulties, personal stress, professional liability, violation of professional conduct standards or criminal law, and loss of reputation and community standing.

While the Firm respects the privacy of its personnel and does not intend to intrude into private lives and activities, it will not tolerate illegal activities or drug and alcohol abuse or dependency at any time, as such behavior impairs its personnel and reflects adversely on the firm and its standing within the community. The Firm likewise will not tolerate drug and alcohol abuse during times and at places persons are in a position to be regarded or identified as representing the firm, such as traveling on business or participating in community, organizational or professional meetings and affairs. The firm also expects that its personnel will act professionally and moderately at the Firm social functions at which alcoholic beverages are served.

The identification, counseling, treatment and rehabilitation of impaired personnel will be treated as confidential, except when there are overriding considerations. The successful implementation and maintenance of the policy depends on the commitment of all personnel and their assistance in identifying and helping impaired persons. While the policy rests on encouraging self-referrals by impaired persons, in instances of perceived impairment, compliance with the policy will be monitored through job performance standards.

B. Implementation and Operation

The Firm will facilitate assistance to impaired personnel through its Employee Assistance Program, lawyers assistance programs (e.g., Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers), other community and social service resources, and through coordination with its health insurance providers.

To further this objective, the Executive Committee shall, on a yearly basis, establish a Personnel Assistance Committee (the Committee) of six or more individuals chosen in equal numbers from (1) attorneys and (2) other personnel at the firm. The Committee members shall be available for any individual at the firm who wishes information concerning the policy, and the availability of outside counseling, treatment and rehabilitation assistance for impaired persons. The Committee shall function as a course of information and referrals, as well as to review this policy on a periodic basis. Under no circumstances shall Committee members attempt to engage in counseling, treatment or rehabilitation of the individuals who contact them. The Committee shall establish appropriate internal procedures to maintain the confidentiality of any and all information it receives concerning the individuals who contact its members.

The Firm seeks early identification of an intervention in the impairment problems of its personnel to provide the person involved with qualified outside counseling, treatment and rehabilitative services as soon as possible in order to hasten that person's recovery. In that regard, the policy does not require or even suggest that the Committee must be contacted by any individual at the firm. All persons may seek the help of the Employee Assistance Program, a lawyers' assistance program or other outside agency either through self-referral or through the Committee.

As the objective of treatment is rehabilitation, persons referred to programs will be expected to undertake the treatment in good faith, and referred persons will not be excused from complying with job performance standards established by the firm. Individuals referred to counseling, treatment and rehabilitation programs may, however, be covered by one of the following firm policies: (1) prolonged illness policy (persons other than attorneys), or (2) policy and compensation during parental and medical leaves (attorneys). The firm may, in its discretion limit the number of occasions in which any person may avail himself/herself of such policy or policies, consistent with its legal obligations to afford reasonable accommodation to such individual. The firm expects that a person will avoid future alcohol or drug abuse problems after the completion of a counseling, treatment or rehabilitation program.

C. Illegal Activities

While The Firm's policy emphasizes treatment and rehabilitation of impaired personnel, the policy is not intended to condone or excuse criminal acts in connection with the distribution or use of illegal drugs or that arise or result from drug and alcohol abuse and dependency.

In certain circumstances, the firm may conduct a search under guidelines approved by the Executive Committee. While a primary ingredient for the successful implementation and operation of this policy is confidentiality, when the unprivileged disclosure of violations of criminal law occur within the context of the policy, the firm may notify law enforcement authorities, whether or not it has an affirmative obligation to do so. In some instances, moreover, lawyers who receive such unprivileged disclosures may have an overriding obligation under applicable professional conduct standards to report to an appropriate tribunal or disciplinary agency.

In the event of a criminal law violation, the firm in its sole discretion may cooperate with courts and disciplinary agencies in the disposition of proceedings by affording treatment to the violator under the impairment procedures of this policy or under procedures established by the court or agency.

D. Consequences of Policy Violations

Any person, including any employee or attorney, who acts contrary to this policy or violates any standards hereby established will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination in the case of employees and expulsion in the case of partners. The firm may, in its discretion, offer personnel the opportunity to participate in a counseling, treatment or rehabilitation program in lieu of such discipline.

Notwithstanding the generality of the foregoing, any person who violates any criminal laws in connection with the distribution or use of illegal drugs or that arise or result from drug and alcohol abuse and dependency shall be subject to discipline or other action by the firm.

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