Darryl Singer believes in speaking his mind, contributing to the legal profession, and standing up to do the right thing. He is frequently quoted in The Law Times and has been published in The Globe and Mail. He is regularly featured on Newstalk 1010, Toronto’s largest talk radio station. He is a member of AdvocateDaily.com. He is the wellness columnist for The Lawyers Daily, a LexisNexis Canada publication.
THE LAWYERS DAILY - Three ways to help with mental health and addiction in lawyer discipline proceedings
What can the law society do about this issue? I have three concrete solutions to propose:
1. At the intake and investigative stage, when it is apparent the lawyer has AMH [Addiction and Mental Health] issues, the focus should be on getting the lawyer help and ensuring the lawyers’ clients are protected.
The rates of addiction and mental-health issues for lawyers are typically 2.5 to 3.5 times the national average.
A 2016 study by the American Bar Association (ABA) and the Hazelden Foundation found that 21 per cent of lawyers have a drinking problem; 28 per cent struggle with depression and 19 per cent with anxiety. The ABA has issued a 73-page report on how to improve lawyers' well-being.
While each case is different, there is certain advice I give to everyone if a lawyer you know is suffering from an addiction. Here is a non-exhaustive list of seven things you can do to help an addict:
Darryl Singer told a University of Toronto appeal hearing the proceedings last June should never have taken place because neither Spence nor his lawyer participated.
At the very least, Singer said Thursday, a penalty should not have been imposed without giving Spence a chance to address the accusations.
“Nothing ought to have gone ahead on June 20. The entire matter should have been adjourned,” said Singer, adding there was no urgency and that the situation unfairly left Spence without the right to a proper defence.
Spence’s notice of appeal argues the tribunal erred by failing to grant an adjournment when he was unable to attend the proceedings for medical reasons. As a result, Spence was “denied the opportunity to present a full defence,” says the notice.
It alleges potential bias on the part of the tribunal chair, a conflict of interest by the university’s law firm and concludes the penalty recommended “was excessive” and didn’t properly consider Spence’s circumstances or less severe options.
Spence, currently living in Chicago, is not required or expected to attend the Thursday appeal, his lawyer Darryl Singer said in an email.
Darryl Singer, of Singer Barristers Professional Corporation, has also been receiving calls about the statement of principles.
“First of all, I think it is unnecessary,” he explained. “As the owner of a law firm I am obligated in three different ways to ensure that I do not discriminate or harass in any way. I am obligated first and foremost as a licensee of the law society. I’m bound by the rules of professional conduct. I’m already bound not to discriminate and harass based on that. That applies to all lawyers, whether you’re a law firm owner or not. Number two, as a business owner it goes even further. I am also bound by the Employment Standards Act. I’m also bound by the Ontario Human Rights Code.”
When lawyers face disciplinary action at the Law Society Tribunal, they often assume it’s the end of their career, says Toronto-area personal injury lawyer Darryl Singer.
Such was the case recently with a 45-year old lawyer who called on Singer after learning he was facing disciplinary action at the tribunal, he tells AdvocateDaily.com.
“The daily stress wore him down,” says Singer, principal of Singer Barristers Professional Corporation. “He had financial pressures and developed deep depression, which he tried to cure by self-medicating with alcohol, and that led to mistakes in his practice. He thought his career was over.”
A recent study by the American Bar Association and the Hazelden Foundation found that lawyers in the U.S. (and all studies done here indicate the numbers correlate with our U.S. counterparts) that approximately one-third of lawyers had a drinking problem, close to 30 per cent struggle with depression, and nearly 20 per cent with anxiety.
For years, the legal profession turned a blind eye to the reality that racialized lawyers experience challenges that are different than those of non-racialized licensees — but the prevalence of these unique hurdles has finally become an accepted fact, Toronto-area personal injury lawyer Darryl Singer writes in The Lawyer’s Daily.
“As lawyers, we would never allow a court to do to our clients what the law society is doing to its own members. It just defies logic. That test is simply too easy,” says Darryl Singer, a lawyer who defends practitioners in discipline proceedings.
Racialized lawyers are more likely to come from moderate or meagre socioeconomic circumstances; are more likely to struggle with the excessively high cost of law school tuition; and are more likely to start their careers in debt. In addition, according to the report, racialized lawyers, may find it more difficult to secure articling positions.