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Addiction Awareness Education Required For Nevada Lawyers

Take a high-stress, high-income job like attorney and mix in Nevada’s reputation as a place where the party never ends, and you have a recipe for potential trouble with alcohol or drugs.

In recognition of those risks, the Nevada State Bar Association recently required lawyers to receive yearly awareness training about the perils of addiction.

Substance abuse trouble “typically starts in law school, with the high pressure, workloads, the stress, the need to succeed academically,” said Kelly Campbell, a Las Vegas-based clinical social worker and addiction expert. “And then it proceeds to practicing law as the caseloads are extremely heavy, the stress level is sometimes just through the roof.”

Campbell also said the legal profession attracts high achievers — the Type A personality — who frequently have performance anxieties than can push them toward drugs and alcohol. A study commissioned by the American Bar Association found substance abuse is more common among attorneys than it is in other professions.

Fired Clark County prosecutor David Schubert killed himself in 2013 after a cocaine conviction cost him his career. He had prosecuted the drug cases against celebrities Bruno Mars and Paris Hilton.

Former Nevada Supreme Court Justice Nancy Saitta said the legal community no longer turns a blind eye to those suffering from addiction and is working to make it easier for attorneys and law students with problems to seek help.

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"We know more about addiction. We understand how very serious it is," Saitta said, "We understand it is a medical issue. It can be treated"

She also said an attorney can lose his or her license for behavior associated with substance abuse problems like a DUI.

Another important change in the legal community is understanding stress and understanding better ways to channel that stress, Saitta said.

"Yes, we are Type As and yes, we are high achievers and we are perhaps more likely to be prone to that type of dependency but we are also being taught how to avoid dependency. We are being taught how to redirect our anxiety with respect to exercise or meditation or other forms of that release."

She said during an educational meeting that is required for judges the focus was dealing with stress and recognizing stress in others.   

Campbell discusses addiction among attorneys on Aug. 17 at a Clark County Bar Association luncheon. For more information, click here.

Guests

Kelly Campbell, addiction expert; Nancy Saitta, former Nevada Supreme Court justice