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Legally Speaking


Issue: June, 2006
Author: Mary B. Guthrie

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Executive Director's Report

On April 21, 2006, the Bar officers and commissioners approved two bold initiatives that will significantly affect Wyoming lawyers. Both of these decisions provide services which Wyoming lawyers have indicated that they would like to receive.

The first decision was to provide professional assistance to attorneys whose lives are affected by substance abuse. After more than two years of work, which included getting a statute amended, and a great engaging in much discussion and negotiation, the Bar decided to contract with the Wyoming Professional Assistance Program (“WPAP”), a not-for-profit organization, based in Casper, which has managed substance abuse problems for health care professionals since 1997. A full-time executive director and a physician who specializes in addiction comprise the staff.

WPAP provides several programs, including intervention, evaluation and referrals for impaired professionals and educational and referral support to family members and co-workers. The WPAP does not provide treatment, but will provide long term monitoring and aftercare. All matters before the WPAP are completely confidential and, unless the Board of Professional Responsibility has referred an attorney to WPAP as part of a diversionary program, Bar counsel and the members of the BPR will not be informed of an attorney’s participation. Additional information about WPAP can be found online at www.wpapro.org.

Alcohol and drug abuse among practicing attorneys occur at alarmingly high rates. While there are no firm figures, it is conservatively estimated that at least 20% of all attorneys have substance abuse problems. If the attorneys who suffer from depression and age-related problems are counted, that percentage is significantly increased.

Substance abuse can seriously diminish an attorney’s ability to practice effectively and cause a variety of professional problems, including missed filing deadlines, failure to communicate with clients, missed court appearances, unauthorized use of client funds, inattention to the work and poor judgment. The Wyoming State Bar hopes that participating with WPAP will help impaired attorneys with their professional problems before disciplinary matters develop. Also, we recognize that the benefits to an attorney’s personal health, family and community life can be immeasurable.

The second decision was to offer Casemaker as a member benefit. Casemaker is a web-based legal library, which provides appellate and trial court decisions, statutes, administrative agency rules and regulations, and other material for all jurisdictions whose state bars are members of the Casemaker consortium. At present, 25 states, including Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Nebraska, are Casemaker states. Also, all federal cases, statutes and rules and ethics opinions will be available.

We all should give a great round of applause and thanks to the Bar officers and commissioners for their responsiveness to the needs and concerns of Wyoming lawyers.

And now to change gears......

One of the challenges of life is to realize that change is inevitable. After a great deal of soul searching I have decided to retire as Executive Director of the Wyoming State Bar. I certainly am not retiring from life, but am commencing a new chapter in my life. I have always been a proponent of life long learning. Consequently, I am looking forward to learning new things (and not having to wear panty hose everyday!)

The ABA has adopted an interesting initiative that fits in with my “new life.” It is called the “Second Season of Service,” and it focuses on baby boom generation lawyers who are beginning to leave full-time practice to pursue other interests. One of the prongs of the initiative is to encourage lawyers who have left active practice to participate in pro bono and public service. If each retiring lawyer were to devote 50 hours a year, over two million lawyer hours would be available annually for good works.

The other day I was listening to a radio station that plays “oldies,” when I heard, “Turn, Turn, Turn.” (For those of who were born after 1980, that song was made famous by the Byrds, with the music written by Pete Seeger, and words from Ecclesiastes). I think that it is appropriate to finish my last or penultimate column for the Wyoming Lawyer, with the words to that song:

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time for every purpose, under Heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time for every purpose, under Heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time for every purpose, under Heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time for every purpose, under Heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose A time to rend, a time to sow
A time to love, a time to hate
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late

Copyright © 2006 – Wyoming State Bar