Darryl Singer: It depends on where you work, who your boss is and how long you’ve worked there. Consider: Are you at a small firm? Is your boss known to be understanding about these things? Are you working for a larger firm as a typical associate who’s grinding away, and thus don’t know the partners’ attitudes? I wish we had evolved as a profession to the point where the answer to this question could be an unqualified yes.
I now understand why a client can’t simply get his or her head around the facts and the law, but must personalize everything; why they see it through their version of the truth as opposed to whatever the objective truth might be. It has made me realize that I can no longer simply tell clients “don’t worry, it’ll be okay.” I owe it to clients in preparing them to give evidence not only to help them understand the facts, the law and the process, but also to try to understand their emotions to help put them at ease.
Popular radio show hosts Evan Solomon and Amanda Lang talk to Darryl Singer about his 4-year addiction to OxyContin and how it wreaked havoc with his family life, personal friendships, and his law practice.
There are a lot of movies about drug lords, drug dealers and drug addicts. That’s Hollywood for you. But two hours later, you’re back in your own world. Comfy, cozy.
What is more difficult for Hollywood to depict is what it’s like living with a drug addict, the effect they have on the people around them, plus how long people actually battle drug addiction. It’s not as sexy as snorting cocaine through rolled-up $1,000 bills in a fancy New York nightclub. Or as seedy as shooting up in a filthy public washroom.
A 2015 British study showed that the average smartphone user checks their phone 150 times a day. That’s every six minutes. Microsoft itself published a report in 2015 that stated that the average attention span of smartphone users was reduced from 12 to eight seconds. Experts believe, based on studies like these, that the long-term impact of smartphones is to reduce both brainpower and memory elasticity.
I have a trusted associate lawyer who has been with my firm for six years. She runs many of the client files on her own and is, in fact, the main point of contact for almost all of the personal injury files in my office.
Yet I cannot count the number of times in the last six years when clients, opposing male counsel and insurance adjusters have referred to her as my “assistant.” This, despite the fact they have been introduced to her as a lawyer and have her email or letters, which clearly indicate that she is a lawyer.
I have urged in other columns that the law society deal with AMH [Addiction and Mental Health] issues at the investigation stage by ensuring that members get the help they need rather than pushing the matter through to discipline. I have also suggested where it is inevitable there must be discipline; that the AMH circumstances that surround it be taken into account with regard to the misconduct itself as opposed to just the penalty.
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.
“I would like to see more fulsome discussion with the profession where they [the law society] say ‘look, we know we have an issue. We’ve done this big, fancy report.’ The report has told us what everybody knew,” he says, adding that racism and discrimination in the legal profession were apparent before the report was released.
OPSC: What message would you like to pass on to the students of Osgoode?
Singer: You may feel, as a law student, that you don’t know what you’re doing here in school. I felt like an imposter at Osgoode, and that’s not an uncommon feeling among law school students and lawyers. No matter who you’re comparing yourself to, everybody’s got some shit that they’re going through.