Why Lawyers Need to Know Someone Like Me
(and why I need them)
If you are in the treatment industry, you need to know the lawyers and if you are a defense attorney, you should know someone like me. The idea that either of us can do without the other only confines our usefulness and limits potential.
I challenge you read the following and find any fault in my reasoning. It is sound and rooted in years of experience. More importantly, many people are alive today because I intentionally went against the grain of the status quo. This is nothing new and I am certainly not the first to seek out various professionals with whom I can collaborate. If I live by my own word and truly collaborate with all, it is then my obligation to share what I have learned through both triumphs and failures.
Addiction – I am an expert in my field. I have been clean and sober since 1995. Over the past 20 years, I have worked with thousands of addicted individuals and their families. I am a treatment provider and I serve on three specialty drug courts in my county. Prior to 1995, I was arrested for drug and alcohol charges more times than the average person. Unfortunately, I have also buried more people that I care to think about. Some of these people were as close as my own wife, cousin, bandmate, and far too many friends. I understand addiction and recovery on a cellular level and it has become the most important thing in my life.
I know a lot about the law, but I am not a lawyer. My relationships in the legal community give me greater access to those I would help.
Lawyers are not treatment professionals, although many know more about the subject most. Knowing someone with my skill set is a valuable asset to any attorney. I am the one who can show the light to the addicted and provide a better client in the courtroom. Suppose your client does not want help or is not willing to follow directions; this is information that will shape exactly how you will defend them in court, as well. There is no one who cannot get better.
Testifying in court – I have spent countless hours in the courtroom and have learned how to prevent getting stumped or boxing myself in a corner. I also will not testify if the attorney does not have the time to sit down and go over strategies with me. How can I be of any help if you really do not know who I am or what I can do for you? This is one of those lessons I have learned in which a certain attorney knew nothing about me and asked the wrong questions. On the stand I can only answer what he asked, and I am not allowed to say, “I think what you wanted to ask me was ______.” Remember triumphs and fails? This was a fail.
Treatment – Finding the right treatment center for a complex case with co-occurring disorders is another learned skill based in relationships, knowledge of a program, and experience. All lawyers have a go-to treatment center in which they have had success but when dealing with specific disorders there are specialized centers that should be utilized. These come in many price points scattered throughout the country. It’s like approaching every drug case the same way: there are many mitigating factors to be considered and addressed appropriately.
Comprehensive treatment plan – A solid plan includes: detox if needed, inpatient treatment, aftercare that includes outpatient treatment, sober living, and case management. Furthermore, all these components must be of similar modalities. With so many choices, it is easy to select what is nearby, convenient, and affordable. This would be like having different lawyers with differing strategies at each hearing through the progression of the case. It causes confusion, resentment, and poor outcomes. Knowing how each program works together for continuity is imperative. Example: If your client is medically detoxed off all medications, sent to inpatient utilizing MAT (medically assisted treatment) where they are placed on a two-year protocol, and then enrolls in an abstinence-based outpatient program, nothing good will come of this. Families typically believe that one outpatient is just like the next; so, what’s the difference? The difference is we need a consistent comprehensive treatment plan that is thoroughly detailed to ensure a more positive outcome.
Recovery longevity and compliance – Another great opportunity for collaborative potential is between attorney and provider. Someone like me can usually spot an issue before it blows up in court and often, when someone starts to question the need for their treatment plan, I can utilize the attorney to remind their client exactly what is at stake. Addiction affects us physically and mentally, so the idea that we are on solid footing and require no more help often comes long before we are out of the woods. We tend to minimize what is at stake and think everyone is overreacting. If for no other reason than a positive legal outcome, I am a proponent of anything that keeps someone engaged in their treatment longer. The longer we are held accountable and engaging in recovery the better our chances are.
Alternative sentencing – Many men and women have been released to my custody (recovery center) over the past decade. This allows the individual to demonstrate that they are serious about changing long before their case is disposed. When they take full advantage of this option, it only helps their outcome. I have seen unbelievable outcomes.
Referrals – So, let’s do the math on this. If someone can afford the attorney retainer fee, they can afford treatment. If you are a provider and you believe everyone in jail is indigent, then you are mistaken. You have missed many referrals. I have found that 50% of our “indigents” have insurance and often drive nice vehicles. If you have taken the time to develop relationships in the legal community, you will be the provider they call when a client needs help. This can only improve your census however, I must caution you not to cherry pick their clients. If you are going to sell yourself as helpful, you need to be helpful all the time. If someone does not have insurance, you still need to help them find a workable solution. If you cater only to those with financial resources, you will shoot yourself in the foot. Take some time and find the state funded, non-profit, or otherwise affordable solutions. Do this and you will be gold.
As for attorneys, referrals are a two-way street. Just as I was writing this article, I was contacted by someone who needed a lawyer well versed in family and criminal law.
How to meet – This is true for both lawyers and providers; in fact, it works for everyone. Meeting takes work and consistency, it may seem awkward at first but be persistent.
- Host trainings – Lawyers need CLE’s and clinicians need CEU’s. Find out which is needed and how you can either sponsor or host a necessary training.
- Conferences – We all attend conferences, so start attending the conferences your potential referents attend.
- Associations – We all belong to associations. So, you should sponsor an event, attend one, or ask to present on how your expertise can help them.
- Courthouse – Sometimes when my schedule is free, I just go to the courthouse to check in and see who I can help. It is as simple as sitting down with my laptop and catching up on work. While sitting there, everyone sees me, and it often reminds them they needed to talk to me. I don’t think I have been in the courthouse without being approached in several years. It always yields results if I remain patient.
- Important events – Do some research and find out what is important. One event I never miss is the swearing-in ceremony for attorneys who have run for office. This is like graduation and they are always thankful to see those who support them. Again, this takes research and work.
- Offer help – Explain how you can be helpful even if it is just connecting dots for a treatment plan. Offer to give free trainings about addiction/legal matters for their staff. Be a resource and not just a vendor.
I hope this helps, as always if you have any questions please leave a comment or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org