Taking Leave – a Risk Management Perspective

Manitoba lawyer Donna Seale has a great blog focused on human rights issues in workplaces. In fact Human Rights in the Workplace is so good that in 2010, the blog won a CLawBie award. In her post, It’s time to take time, Donna recently announced she’s taking an indefinite leave from her practice and her blogging to focus on renewing her own health.

As a Manitoba lawyer with an interest in human rights issues, I’m disappointed that her voice won’t be heard on the topic for the next while. As a a former colleague of hers at the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, I know Donna well enough to know that this must have been a very difficult choice for her. But wearing my risk management hat, I am pleased to see this kind of proactive decision-making by a lawyer. Making such a choice speaks volumes about her integrity and dedication to her clients.

Knowing when to “hold them, and know(ing) when to fold them” is a challenge for many lawyers. Life circumstances, whether due to age or illness or family obligations can make it especially difficult to continue to maintain a practice to the standard required by our professional codes of conduct. Unfortunately, not every lawyer recognizes they need to make a change and acts proactively to address the issues they face before it becomes too late.

It’s not unusual for lawyers to continue on in spite of the challenges they face only to see their practice grind to a screeching halt when facing a law society discipline committee. For this reason and to ensure protection of the public, law societies and legal insurers provide supports and assistance to lawyers, their staff and their families. They see firsthand the effects of addictions, depression and stress-related illnesses on the practice of law.

The Lawyers Professional Assistance Conference (LPAC) of the Canadian Bar maintains complete listing of Canadian lawyer assistance programs (LAPs) on their website. LPAC also provides a 24-hour helpline(1-800-667-5722) for lawyers, judges, law students and their families and staff, and a wide range of valuable resources for lawyers on topics including mental illness, managing stress, recognizing addictions and preventing burnout.

Additional useful resources can be found on the Canadian Bar Association’s PracticeLink website.

The services of lawyer assistance programs are provided confidentially and at no cost. If someone you know is struggling with anxiety, depression, stress-related illness or addictions, please encourage them to seek help. And if you feel yourself slipping toward the precipice, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local LAP or a colleague for support. You’ll only regret it if you don’t.


  1. Donna will be missed.

    Life circumstances are not properly accounted for when the law societies design their rules and regulations for sole practice, and there should be more done in this area.