October 7, 2021
Letter from the Law Society: Let's Not Return to 'Normal'
Rebecca Young is the Law Society’s Education Counsel. The Law Society’s Education department plays an integral role in the development and implementation of the competence and wellness programs and resources that have, and will result from the Law Society’s 2020 - 2024 Strategic Plan and Lawyer Licensing and Competence in Alberta Report

Mental health has been top of mind for employers and employees alike throughout the past 18 months and there is no how-to guide on navigating this pandemic. We have been forced to make quick decisions based on rapidly shifting information and expectations, and with, at times, little assurance our decisions won’t harm the safety and health of our family, colleagues and clients. We have all experienced varying degrees of challenges and suffering. For a profession that generally has an intolerance for uncertainty, this created a lot of stress. Acknowledging that we are dealing with collective stress and grief has helped to normalize talking about and promoting mental health. While this is encouraging, we need to keep the conversation going post-pandemic, whenever that may be, if we are going to bring about long-term positive change in the profession.

Let’s remember that, pre-pandemic, our profession already had high rates of mental health problems. Based on the last large-scale Canadian survey conducted in 2012, 58 per cent of lawyers have experienced significant stress and burnout, 48 per cent have experienced anxiety, and 26 per cent have experienced depression. These percentages assume that lawyers accurately self-disclosed, as we know that due to fear and stigma many people do not feel comfortable disclosing that they are experiencing mental health problems. Studies in the United States released in 2016 and 2021 reflect these trends. The National Well-Being Study currently being conducted by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada will provide us with updated statistics, but I would hazard a guess that the mental health of our profession in Canada has not improved.

All the best,

Rebecca Young

Rebecca Young
Education Counsel
Law Society of Alberta
Letter from Assist: Lawyers and Substance Use
Lawyers and substance use. At times, they seem to go hand-in-hand. In the largest lawyer survey in North America, conducted by the American Bar Association in 2016, more than one-fifth of lawyer respondents disclosed drinking alcohol at rates that were hazardous, harmful and potentially alcohol-dependent. According to a more recent study during the pandemic, risky drinking continues in our profession.

Early reports on Canadian substance use during the pandemic indicated that consumption of alcohol and marijuana increased. However, with more time and study, the results are more nuanced. Some Canadians increased their alcohol consumption (24 per cent), while a comparable number reported decreased consumption. Among those whose alcohol use increased, many reported frequent heavy drinking. One-third of cannabis users reported increased usage, with only 12 per cent reporting decreased usage.

Reasons for increased consumption of both alcohol and cannabis were similar. Individuals who reported increased alcohol consumption cited social isolation, stress and declining mental health, while individuals who reported increased cannabis consumption cited boredom, stress and convenience (lack of a regular schedule).

Wishing you well-being,

Loraine Champion

Loraine Champion
Executive Director
Alberta Lawyers' Assistance Society

Psychological First-Aid
Alcohol Use
with Brian Forbes, PhD, R.Psych.
Forbes Psychological Services

Substance use is a major problem. On average five per cent of lawyers seeking assistance from Lawyer’s Assist present with the primary issue being alcohol and/or drug problems. Of the total number of cases served, 40 per cent of these cases identified substance use as an issue, but for the individual seeking help it was not the primary issue identified. Rather, the issue tended to be marital, work, parenting, depression or anxiety.

It is generally believed that 5 to 10 per cent of Canadian employees have alcohol and/or drug-related problems. Many employee discipline cases involve alcohol and drugs, and substance use contributes to accidents, incidents and near-incidents. Employees with alcohol and drug use issues miss work more frequently and take three times as many sick days.

Alcohol use is associated with a significant increase in intensive care unit admissions (pre-COVID), accidents, violence and suicides.

So how do individuals with an alcohol use problem behave in the workplace? Read the full article.

If you are struggling with alcohol use, there are a number of key resources available to help. These include:

Ethically Speaking
“Empathy is a connection; it’s a ladder out of the shame hole.” – Brené Brown

A lawyer’s obligations, upon learning of a colleague’s struggle with addiction, are not of necessity antithetical to empathy or compassion. A lawyer who knows that a colleague is impaired bears the burden of ensuring steps are taken to protect client interests, and may carry an additional burden: worry for their colleague. Empathy, the ability to share or understand another’s experiences, can help the lawyer navigate the difficult path of addressing lawyer impairment.

Rule 7.1-3 of the Code of Conduct states that unless doing so would involve a breach of solicitor-client privilege, or would be unlawful, a lawyer must report to the Law Society of Alberta any conduct that raises a substantial question about another lawyer’s capacity to provide professional services, and any situation in which a lawyer’s clients are likely to be materially prejudiced. Impairment resulting from addiction may fall under either provision. Note however that the rule does not state that knowledge that a lawyer suffers from impairment triggers the obligation to report. Rather, knowledge that impairment has resulted in conduct that itself raises concerns about capacity triggers the obligation to report. This is an important distinction.

The commentary to the Rule reinforces the distinction. Paragraph four stipulates that a lawyer who makes a bona fide effort to help an impaired lawyer is not compelled to report their colleague to the Law Society. The duty to report is triggered only if the lawyer reasonably believes that their colleague is encouraging or will engage in criminal conduct, or will harm another person. Critically, if the lawyer who is struggling with addiction is seeking treatment or help, and client interests have not otherwise been impacted, the lawyer is not required to report. Addiction alone, then, does not trigger the obligation to report.

A Word on Wellness
Words Matter – How to Talk About Addiction with Dignity
with Susannah S. Alleyne
Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Counsel and Equity Ombudsperson
Law Society of Alberta

Words matter. While that’s a fact, many of us – myself included – have words in our lexicon that we don’t think much about. We use these words in everyday discussions and are sometimes totally oblivious to the impact we have on others. When it comes to talking about the disease of addiction, we can all do a little better and expand our vocabulary to those living with or experiencing the impact of substance use disorder. Here are few examples you can implement right away.


Just above, I used a different term for addiction. This term is still widely accepted and easily understood; however, substance use disorder amplifies the disease aspect and centres the human experience of living with a disorder.


This is a loaded stigmatizing term that reduces an individual to their disorder. Instead, you could say a person with substance use disorder, a person with addiction or struggling with addiction.


These terms centre the person’s drug use and have negative connotations. Instead, you could say that person is using and name the substance (i.e. opioids), struggling with substance use or engaging in risky or harmful use.

Replacement/Substitution Therapy 

These terms can have the effect of implying that the person is simply using another addictive substance and may not remove the stigma associated with substance use disorder. They can also serve to minimize the validity of this treatment. Try saying medication-assisted treatment, medication or treatment or medication for addiction treatment when referring to prescribed medications such as Methadone, Suboxone or Vivitrol.


These terms have the direct impact of categorizing substance use disorder and those struggling as socially unacceptable and inherently “dirty”. Instead, you could say, in recovery or not currently using.

Learning a new language, including around addiction may not be easy but it’s necessary work that increases inclusivity and creates safer spaces for those struggling or in need of support. When we change the way we talk about an issue, it helps us and others think differently and reduces stigma. Everyone benefits when we remember that words matter.

For more information on changing the language of addiction check out this resource.

Brain Break
The Present
In "The Present", a young boy is given a gift by his mother. He initially rejects the present in favour of his video games until he has a change in perspective.

This short film provides a heartwarming lesson on how we can't always know what other people are going through, and the importance of being compassionate to others and ourselves.
Upcoming Days of Recognition
Looking for a list of wellness days you and your firm/workplace can recognize? Check out the list below. Please note, this is not an exhaustive list. Be sure to check future editions of the Wellness eBulletin for more recognition days. Dates marked with an asterisk (*) indicate that the event takes place on the same day every year.