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What Does A Volunteer Do?

Why would someone want to volunteer?

  • because of an experience with addiction, depression, stress or life balance issues- either personally or with family/friends
  • to have an deeper impact within the legal community
  • to help someone
  • to be part of a team
  • to make new friends
  • to network with others
  • for emotional and spiritual growth
  • to give back
  • for fun!

Qualifications to be a Volunteer:

  • willingness to share your own experience as appropriate
  • willingness to set aside the time needed
  • stable in your own recovery from addiction and/or mental health issues (if applicable)

Some ways for volunteers to get involved:

Interventions. With TLAP guidance, volunteers are often asked to participate in interventions. An intervention is defined as “presenting reality to a person out of touch with it in a receivable way.” (Intervention, Vernon E. Johnson, p 61). The overall objective of an intervention is to help a person to see how his/her self-destructive behavior affects themselves and others. While sometimes the volunteer may know the person being intervened upon, it is not always necessary. As it is often said in twelve-step meetings, a volunteer can share their “experience, strength and hope” with anyone who might be in need of support.

Outreach. TLAP can only help those who know they exist. Outreach opportunities can be as simple as talking about TLAP at legal functions to sharing about TLAP with a friend in need of services.

Peer Monitoring. TLAP sometimes monitors clients for the Board of Professional Responsibility, the Board of Law Examiners, law schools and firms. Monitoring Agreements are written contracts wherein a client agrees to certain measurable activities in order to maintain good mental health and/or a solid program of recovery from addiction. It is the client’s job to call the Monitor once a week and to schedule a face-to-face meeting with the Monitor once a month. The Monitor is required to file a monthly report with the TLAP office.

The Monitor is not a 12-step sponsor of the Monitored client, and is not expected to insure that the person complies with the contract conditions. To act as the Monitored client’s sponsor obviously would set up a conflict if the Monitored attorney has a substance abuse or behavioral relapse. While a Monitor may attend some 12-step or support group meetings with the client, it is recommended that the Monitor not attend all of the meetings of the Monitored attorney. This allows the Monitored client to feel free to participate fully and will provide the client with the most value from a meeting.

Monitors are expected to immediately report all client non-compliance with the conditions of the client’s TLAP Monitoring Agreement. When drug/alcohol use is suspected, a Monitor may suggest drug screens by notifying the TLAP office.

A Monitor is never to act as legal counsel for any TLAP participant that they are Monitoring, but may appear on behalf of a Monitored client as a witness after consulting the TLAP office.

Responsibilities of the Monitor:

  • Meet with the client by scheduled appointment on a monthly basis, and file a monthly progress report with TLAP whether the meeting was held or not.
  • Regularly review the Monitoring Agreement requirements and monthly calendar with the client.
  • Discuss any difficulties the client is having.
  • Act as a mental health or sobriety mentor as it relates to the practice of law.
  • Participate in any intervention for noncompliance.
“I volunteered as a Peer Monitor for several years working with attorneys in recovery who were under contract with the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program (TLAP).  It was a very rewarding experience.  I am certain that I got more out of it than those that I monitored.  I know that I experienced more peace and serenity in my life because of the work I was doing with TLAP.”

Public speaking. Education of the bench and bar is a primary mission of TLAP. Volunteers are asked to speak at bar functions, CLE programs, law firms, conferences and law school classes. Volunteers may also be asked to write articles or stories for publication in state or local bar journals and other print media. Although sharing a personal story is often an asset, it is never required. Anonymity and confidentiality is respected with volunteers as well as clients.

I had the opportunity to travel around the mid-state and speak to different groups about the great work that TLAP is doing.  I spoke to public defenders, district attorneys, the private defense bar, judges, and even law students.  The programs were always well received.  You could tell that people know how important the work of TLAP is because inevitably several people would come up after the speaking engagement to talk privately.  They might have a question or maybe a concern about a friend or colleague.  Maybe even some of them had a concern about themselves.  Doing this type of work was very fulfilling.

Fundraising. Members of the legal profession have demonstrated above average rates of chemical dependency and mental health issues. Unfortunately, by the time an attorney makes the decision to enter treatment for any of these issues, he or she is rarely financially postured to pay for the treatment. The William B. Cain Memorial Fund was designed to provide a revolving loan to members of the legal profession who are so financially destitute that there is no other way to pay for treatment. Fundraising for the William B. Cain fund is a unique and meaningful way to invest in the profession by helping fellow attorneys in need.

“The fund has literally saved my life.” -A 2009 loan recipient

FUN. TLAP hosts social events across the state, including picnics, softball teams, a yearly retreat (Camp TLAP), holiday parties and more.

While TLAP may ask for your help, you are free to accept or decline any TLAP request.