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Abstract

To members of the legal profession, and many of those familiar with it, the high rate of chemical dependency among practitioners is not a secret. Moreover, there is a strong correlation between chemically dependent attorneys and ethical violations across the nation. Over the past thirty years, the legal profession has generally dealt with the alarming amount of professional misconduct rooted in an attorney’s alcoholism or substance addiction by imposing discipline. With the exception of some state-led movements toward rehabilitating the addicted attorney, little has been done on the national level to address chemical dependency among practicing attorneys. Drawing from the Model Rules of Professional Conduct and the “Mitigating Factor approach” used by some state courts, this Note argues that the current method of dealing with ethical violations that arise from the conduct of alcoholic and addicted attorneys does not provide adequate remedies to protect the public, the profession, or the chemically dependent attorneys individually. The Note proposes an amendment to Rule 8.3 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to prevent the harm caused by attorney impairment due to substance abuse. This Note argues that such an amendment is a necessary and timely reform.

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