Signs and Symptoms of Substance Use and Mental Health Issues Among Attorneys

Level: Intermediate
Runtime: 61 minutes
Recorded Date: December 06, 2019
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  • Understand how prevalent substance use and mental health issues are among attorneys
  • Review the signs and symptoms of substance use, depression, addiction, anxiety, and stress
  • Discuss how substance use and mental health issues impairs attorneys' ability to perform legal services competently
  • Discuss the Lawyer Assistance Program and Other Resources Available
Runtime: 1 hour
Recorded: December 6, 2019


This panel will be led by a senior program analyst for the Law Assistance Program for the State Bar of California and will be an interactive discussion about how prevalent substance use and mental health issues are among attorneys, and how substance use and mental health issues impair an attorney’s ability to perform legal services competently. The panelists will also describe the signs and symptoms of substance abuse, addiction, depression, anxiety and stress, and provide information on lawyer-assistance programs and other resources.

This program was recorded on December 6th, 2019.

Provided By

American Bankruptcy Institute


James Patrick Shea

Founding Partner
Shea Larsen, PC

James Patrick Shea is chair of the Creditors’ Rights Practice Group of Kolesar & Leatham in Las Vegas and has more than 35 years of experience advising financial institutions, landlords, vendors, creditors’ committees, debtors, bankruptcy trustees and other parties in business bankruptcy proceedings and commercial litigation matters. He is nationally recognized in the field of commercial insolvency and reorganization and is a former ABI president and chairman.

An ABI member since 1988, he has also served as ABI’s Vice President-Communications & Information Technology and was the founding chair of ABI’s Subcommittee on Gaming Insolvencies and Reorganizations. Most recently, he co-authored ABI’s Individual Chapter 11. Mr. Shea chairs ABI’s Civility Task Force and is a former program chair of ABI’s Southwest Bankruptcy Conference. He also is the founding and current chairman of the State Bar of Nevada’s Bankruptcy Law Section, co-chaired the Ninth Circuit Lawyer Representatives for the District of Nevada, and served on the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference Executive Committee.

Mr. Shea has represented clients in significant hotel/casino bankruptcies, including those filed by Landmark, Marina, Riviera, Bally’s, Gold River, Stratosphere, Arizona Charlie’s, Debbie Reynolds, Aladdin Hotel & Casino, Hooters Hotel & Casino, Stations Casinos, and Lucky Dragon Hotel and Casino. He has also handled high-profile bankruptcies involving such companies such as National Airlines, Sunworld Airlines, AgriBioTech, Mego Financial, Amerco (UHaul), USA Capital, Pegasus Mining, Veris Gold, Vegas TV and Lake Las Vegas. Mr. Shea is AVrated by Martindale-Hubbell and is consistently listed in The Best Lawyers in America and Mountain West Super Lawyers.

Mr. Shea received both his undergraduate degree and his J.D. from the University of Arizona, where he received the chairmanship to the Moot Court Board and the Mitchell C. Nelson Award for legal scholarship.

Lita Abella

Senior Program Analyst
Lawyer Assistance Program - State Bar of California

Lita Abella is a senior program analyst with the State Bar of California in Los Angeles, where she conducts outreach for the Lawyer Assistance Program, which assists law students, bar applicants, and attorneys with substance use and mental health issues.

Prior to that, she was an investigator for more than five years in the Office of Chief Trial Counsel, where she investigated and assisted in the prosecution of attorneys for misconduct. Beginning in 1980, Ms. Abella served with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for 20 years, where she worked various assignments including but not limited to patrol, internal affairs, narcotics, vice and the DARE program. She received extensive training in both substance use disorders and mental health and was a court-qualified narcotics expert during her years in law enforcement. She attained the rank of lieutenant. Ms. Abella also has been a business owner and licensed private investigator. While in law school, she clerked for the Riverside District Attorney’s Office and the Office of the Attorney General.

Ms. Abella received her J.D. from Western State University College of Law.

Rudy J. Cerone

McGlinchey Stafford PLLC

Rudy J. Cerone is the co-chair of the firm's Creditors’ Rights, Financial Restructuring, and Bankruptcy practice. A graduate of the University of California at San Diego (B.A., summa cum laude) and Boston College Law School (J.D., cum laude), he has more than three decades of experience in business bankruptcies and commercial litigation, and over a decade of experience in complex consumer cases.

Rudy represents secured lenders in workouts, bankruptcy proceedings, and collateral recovery. He successfully defends creditors against lender liability claims, class actions, and sanctions proceedings.

Rudy is a Fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy and is certified as a Business Bankruptcy Specialist by the American Board of Certification and by the Louisiana Board of Legal Specialization. He is a long-time member of the American Bankruptcy Institute. He currently serves as a Commissioner on the ABI Commission on Consumer Bankruptcy and as a Co-Chair of the Caribbean Insolvency Symposium.

Rudy is an author and frequent lecturer on both business and complex consumer bankruptcy issues.

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