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Sober Since 1981, Lawyer Has Helped Many Others With Wide Array of Issues

Posted May 11, 2010 1:56 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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William "Bill" Leary never drank at work. But he often hit the booze at night, decades ago, and was never as good the next day as he otherwise would have been, he tells the Connecticut Law Tribune in an article reprinted in New York Lawyer (reg. req.).

After multiple efforts to stop, he took his last drink in January 1981. Since then, the Connecticut lawyer, former state legislator and retired probate judge has been a driving force behind efforts to help other attorneys with issues ranging from alcohol and drug abuse to mental illness to job loss or simply losing interest in the practice of law.

Inspired by a 1998 American Bar Association-sponsored program in Montreal, he lobbied for a broader role and bigger funding for the state chapter of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers. It confidentially assists members of the profession with problems by putting an individual in touch with another attorney who has successfully contended with the same problem.

Leary, who is now 71, served as executive director before hiring Beth Griffin to take on the post full-time in 2006, the legal publication recounts. Griffin is a former insurance defense lawyer who had dealt with alcoholism and depression. She says Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers' client tally expanded from 56 in 2007 to 77 in 2008 to 198 last year.

“It’s not just about drugs, alcohol and gambling anymore,” says Griffin, noting that the new wave of clients includes many attorneys who have gone out of business recently or simply are fed up with the practice of law.

The Law Tribune is about to issue its Service to the Profession award to Leary, who is also active in a number of other ventures intended to help others, as the article details. Married for nearly 40 years, he says he soon stopped feeling a compulsion to drink after quitting in 1981 but has continued attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings at least once a week since then, not wanting to take any chances himself and feeling that he could be helpful to others.

His approach to life is far from unusual among those who have gotten a grip on substance abuse problems, he tells the Law Tribune. "Most people in recovery are trying to help others.”

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Drinking Problem Put Lawyer on Path to a Successful Practice"

ABAJournal.com: "Sober 35 Years, Pa. Lawyer Sees Award as an Opportunity to Help Others"

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