Alberta Lawyers' Assistance Society

About Us

Who We Help

Alberta Lawyers

Practicing law is hard—there are deadlines, difficult interactions and high stakes. It demands time, attention and energy. Assist knows that these demands, left unchecked, can lead to anxiety, stress, burnout, depression and other mental health concerns and substance use. 

Many lawyers deal with clients facing mental health issues but as a population, lawyers are reluctant to ask for help or to recognize that they are struggling.

Assist has developed and sourced resources to educate lawyers about the factors that put lawyers at greater risk than the general population.

All of Assist’s programs are available to Alberta lawyers at all levels of practice: Professional Counselling Services, Peer Support, Education and Awareness and Community.

Law Students

Assist works with both Alberta law schools to develop programming and raise awareness about addiction, mental health issues and emotional distress as well as proactive well-being strategies that can reduce these issues.  Professional counselling services are available to all Alberta law students. In addition, Assist provides a psychologist-in-residence at both the University of Alberta law school and the University of Calgary law school.  

Articling Students

Articling can be one of the most stressful stages in a lawyers’ career. Students have assignments as part of the PREP program as well as work demands and the adjustment to the practice of law, including the particular characteristics of a student’s principal or firm. 

Young Lawyers

Assist works with young lawyers to help establish healthy practice habits. Recent research indicates that many young lawyers are the heaviest drinkers in the profession, while it used to be the oldest lawyers. We do not know what the long-term implications of this trend will be.

However, on the positive side, many young lawyers are comfortable talking about mental health issues and asking for help. It is important for young lawyers to learn how to deal with stress and maintain healthy lifestyles. In addition to providing resources, seminars and activities, Assist provides professional counselling services and peer support.  

Lawyers at All Career Levels

Assist helps lawyers find solutions for dealing with substance use, mental health and personal issues as well as providing lawyers with resources to build healthier lifestyles to reduce incidence of serious issues. Lawyers can access free and confidential professional counselling as well as peer support and peers who are familiar with the challenges they are facing. 

Senior Lawyers

Many lawyers are continuing to practice law well past traditional retirement age for a wide variety of reasons. We have resources about planning towards retirement and coping with retirement as a life change.

Assist can help senior lawyers deal with specific issues, including declining cognitive abilities. Too often, lawyers experiencing cognitive decline find themselves in the disciplinary system. 

Career Transition

Many lawyers, at all stages of their careers, consider changing positions, practice areas and careers. We support lawyers contemplating change through professional counselling, peer support, education and awareness, and community.

Families

We know that lawyers’ families deal with both their own general mental health and personal issues as well as issues relating to stress, addiction and mental health of their lawyer-family member. Lawyers’ families are often the first ones to spot signs of an impending crisis, whether it is workaholism, substance use, cognitive decline, depression or any other issue.

Assist’s professional counselling and educational resources are available to lawyers’ immediate families

Legal Employers

Assist provides presentations and resources to law firm management and legal department managers on lawyer mental health challenges, the business case for lawyer well-being, and organizational initiatives including lawyer well-being and other workplace policies. Dr. Forbes, the head of our professional counselling services provider, also counsels employers respecting lawyers who exhibit signs of illness or distress.

Independence

Assist is independent of the Law Society of Alberta, although we do receive funding from that organization as part of its third-party funding program. We have an independent board of directors and are led by an Executive Director who reports to our Board. In order to strengthen the strategic link between the Law Society, as a key funder, and Assist, the Law Society recommends one of its board members to serve on Assist’s board. The members of Alberta Lawyers’ Assistance Society have the opportunity to vote for that individual at annual general meetings.

Confidentiality

Assist keeps your information confidential in accordance with good privacy practices and the Law Society’s Code of Conduct. Our counsellors are registered psychologists and registered social workers, who are members of regulated professions with their own codes of conduct.

If you see one of our registered psychologists, the psychologist will maintain records in accordance with the College of Alberta Psychologist’s regulations and practices. The Assist office does not receive any information about lawyers, students and family members who see counsellors. Instead, the psychologists’ office assigns all callers a unique 4-digit code which is used for billing purposes.

Assist's business office is located in space generously donated by JSS Barristers in Calgary. Lawyers, students and family members see counsellors at the counsellors' offices. Peer support meetings are coordinated between the lawyer and the volunteer. Lawyers and students who are accessing our counselling and peer support services do not attend at our offices for any reason. Occasionally, we hold education and awareness or community group meetings at JSS's offices because attendance at these sessions is generally less sensitive. 

What we help with

Personal issues do not always fit into neat pigeon-holes. Common issues that we see include: 

Mental Health Issues Depression & Bipolar
Stress & Anxiety Substance Use/Dependence
Burnout Compassion Fatigue
Suicide Prevention Aging Issues
Well-Being Education Personal Issues
Work-Life Balance Career Dissatisfaction
Career Transition Family/Parenting Issues
Financial Stress Workplace Relationship Issues
Time Management Articling Stress
Law School Distress Personal Relationship Issues

 

You don’t have to fit into one of these categories. If you just don’t feel like yourself, call us.