Regulators play a vital role in fostering individual lawyer well-being and a professional culture that makes it possible. We broadly define “regulators” to encompass all stakeholders who assist the highest court in each state in regulating the practice of law. This definition includes lawyers and staff in regulatory offices; volunteer lawyer and non-lawyer committee, board, and commission members; and professional liability lawyers who advise law firms and represent lawyers in the regulatory process.
Courts and their regulators frequently witness the conditions that generate toxic professional environments, the impairments that may result, and the negative professional consequences for those who do not seek help. Regulators are well-positioned to improve and adjust the regulatory process to address the conditions that produce these effects. As a result, we propose that the highest court in each state set an agenda for action and send a clear message to all participants in the legal system that lawyer well-being is a high priority.
To carry out the agenda, regulators should develop their reputation as partners with practitioners. The legal profession often has a negative perception of regulators, who typically appear only when something has gone awry. Regulators can transform this perception by building their identity as partners with the rest of the legal community rather than being viewed only as its “police.”
Most regulators are already familiar with the 1992 Report of the Commission on Evaluation of Disciplinary Enforcement-better known as the “McKay Commission Report.” It recognized and encouraged precisely what we seek to do through this report: to make continual improvements to the lawyer regulation process to protect the public and assist lawyers in their professional roles. Accordingly, we offer the following recommendations to ensure that the regulatory process proactively fosters a healthy legal community and provides resources to rehabilitate impaired lawyers.