Many attorneys are practicing longer than the previous traditional retirement age of 65-70. Perhaps this is to preserve one's identity, or simply continue to maintain a standard of living to which one has become accustomed.
Whatever the reason, as part of the normal aging process, the brain goes through changes, and cognitive processing may erode over time. Some attorneys may experience changes in memory, or notice this in colleagues and friends. Attorneys who were once "sharp as a tack" and never missed a step may stumble through simple thoughts, be unable to find the right words or mentally wander. There may be missed deadlines, personality changes, client complaints, or disciplinary actions.
Recognizing the signs of memory loss and other symptoms of cognitive impairment, and knowing what steps to take, are crucial in protecting the practice and the clients, as well as preserving the dignity of the affected attorney.
There is always the possibility that the cause of what appears to be the symptoms of mental impairment is reversible, problems such as hypothyroidism, vitamin deficiencies, tumors, psychiatric illness, substance abuse/dependence, etc. As with any illness, early intervention is crucial, whatever the cause. The goal is to preserve the person's dignity and reputation while protecting the public.
If you are concerned about memory loss in yourself or a colleague, NJLAP offers a first-step helping hand through:
- • Confidential early identification of impairment
- • Referral to appropriate medical professionals for diagnostic testing and treatment
- • Ongoing education to the Bench/Bar through presentations and CLE events
- • Discussion of SAGE test results. The test can be taken at any time at this link: SAGE: Ohio State University