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Court authorizes assessment for Wellness Fund

The Supreme Court of Virginia has authorized the collection of up to $30 a year from each active lawyer in Virginia to fund wellness initiatives.

In a May 31 order, the court directed the Virginia State Bar to collect the Attorney Wellness Fund fees, effective July 1.

“The Attorney Wellness Fund fee is to be used to fund a judges and lawyers assistance program (JLAP), CLE courses, and other initiatives relating to wellness, behavioral health, and substance abuse,” the court said.

“The well-being of lawyers, judges and law students in the Commonwealth of Virginia is integral to professional competence,” the order said.

The money collected is to be paid into the state treasury and transferred by the VSB to the court, the order said. The VSB-approved budget for the coming fiscal year contemplates $984,300 collected from a $30 wellness assessment, to be allocated at the court’s direction.

The expected $30 wellness assessment is in addition to a $10 annual assessment of lawyers to support the VSB’s Clients’ Protection Fund, which reimburses losses caused by dishonest lawyers. The $10 CPF charge is reduced this year from $25, as the CPF is now seen as self-sustaining.

The wellness money is expected to be used primarily to boost the resources of Virginia’s long-struggling lawyer assistance program, now known as the Virginia Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program.

A VSB committee has produced a 79-page report on the occupational risks of the practice of law. It follows reports from both a national panel and the Virginia Supreme Court on attorney wellness. The detailed VSB report is expected to be the focus of a June 14 CLE session at the VSB Annual Meeting in Virginia Beach.