The Advocates’ Advocate
Larry Scanlon (M.A. ’10)
The American Bar Association estimates that 15 to 20 percent of lawyers suffer from either alcoholism or chemical substance abuse and dependency—double the national average, according to some studies. While the average person may not realize it, the legal profession has an unmistakable need for mental health counselors, according to Chicago School alumnus Larry Scanlon (M.A. ’10).
“I think that the general consensus is that lawyers solve other people’s problems and they don’t have problems of their own,” he says. “But just like every other part of the population, lawyers experience problems.”
Scanlon knows firsthand how challenging the profession can be; he’s been a lawyer for 15 years, working for both small and large firms on the defense and plaintiff sides. Unlike most of his colleagues, however, he also pulls double duty as a counselor to other lawyers.
After graduating from college in 1991 and spending two years teaching history, English, and other subjects in Samoa, he turned his attention to law and earned his J.D. from Loyola Law School in 1997. Though he flourished and felt happy over the next 10 years in his work as a litigating attorney, following some reflection and soul-searching he realized he didn’t yet feel as though he had quite found his niche.
“I experienced an epiphany that what I loved most about my legal career was counseling the clients,” he says. “From the defendant police officer who was involved in an accident that resulted in a lawsuit to the plaintiff who had a workplace injury and had relationship issues with his wife as a result of that.” That epiphany led Scanlon to The Chicago School, where he earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology with a counseling specialization in 2010.
Now the clinical case manager at the Lawyer’s Assistance Program of Illinois, Scanlon provides counseling services to lawyers struggling with substance and chemical abuse, mental health problems, and career and disciplinary issues.
“Having worked as a lawyer and having the clinical training of being a master’s-level psychotherapist is such a benefit to the clients that come through these doors,” he says. “I understand where lawyers are coming from. It allows me to empathize with my clients when they complain of things that maybe people who have never worked with lawyers might not understand.”
In addition to his work at the Lawyer’s Assistance Program, he presently teaches psychotherapy, group therapy, and professional ethics classes as a TCSPP adjunct; maintains a legal practice of his own; and provides individual and couples counseling to clients at The New Center/The Carl Rogers Institute for Client-Centered Therapy in Chicago.
Through the various turns his life and career have taken, Scanlon recalls that the common denominator has always been a desire to serve. “I gained a lot of satisfaction out of helping others. That is fulfilling,” he says.
Thanks to that drive, the Chicago legal community now has within its ranks a seasoned mental health advocate with firsthand knowledge of the challenges they face.