Rice Named New Executive Director of Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program

July 24, 2018

The Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program is welcoming a familiar face as its new executive director.

Ted Rice was recently appointed to the top post at TLAP by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Rice first came to TLAP in 2006 as deputy director. For the past several months he has been serving as interim executive director.

Since he joined TLAP, Rice has worked to greatly expand the organization’s scope and reach. TLAP has grown to help around 350 lawyers, law students, and judges who are dealing with substance abuse or mental health-related issues each year.

“I’m so excited for the opportunity,” said Rice, who was born in Knoxville and grew up in both West and Middle Tennessee. “I’m very humbled and honored that the Court would have me as the new executive director. I look forward to the challenges and opportunities that the position will provide.”     

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Bivins welcomed Rice’s elevation to this new role.

"Ted Rice has a proven track record as a true leader of TLAP,” Chief Justice Bivins said. “In his prior roles, Ted has been a critical component of TLAP's expanded service across this state and in TLAP being recognized as a national leader of LAP programs across the country. The Court has full confidence in Ted's abilities to lead TLAP to even greater heights in his new role as executive director as TLAP continues to serve the law students, attorneys, and judges of this state."

Prior to his time at TLAP, Rice worked as a clinical counselor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, offering psychological support to doctors and nurses. At the same time, Rice maintained a private practice where he routinely assisted attorneys and judges facing many of the issues that TLAP is designed to address.

One of Rice’s main goals when he started at TLAP was to broaden the focus of the program. While TLAP still has many clients struggling with substance abuse, overall about two out of three of the organization’s clients are facing other problems.

“We deal with stress, burnout, depression, anxiety, cognitive impairment,” Rice said. “There really isn’t anything that we don’t consult and help folks with.”

Rice said that the stress that can accompany a legal career often begins in the high pressure world of law school. In fact, according to TLAP’s 2016 Annual Report, 33 percent of the program’s referrals that year were law students or bar applicants, 58 percent were attorneys, and 9 percent were members of the judiciary.

No matter which segment of the legal community clients come from, Rice said that the emphasis is on caring for them as human beings first.

“When folks come through our doors it’s not because they had a bad day, it’s because they’ve been having a really hard time and they’re out of solutions,” Rice said. “What we try to do here is to build rapport, earn trust, earn respect, and earn the right to ask permission to help a person get back on a path of healing and well-being.”

As much as Rice has accomplished so far at TLAP, he hopes to do even more. For instance, he wants to increase the amount of educational outreach that TLAP does with organizations like local bar associations. That way, attorneys that are a part of a given community can become ambassadors for the TLAP message. Rice has identified a particular need to spread that message in some of the state’s more rural areas.

“One of my goals over the next two years is to really canvas the state and, as we’ve done really well in larger cities, go to our smaller communities and extend the hand of TLAP,” he said.

Rice has seen numerous success stories over the past dozen years of people who either contact TLAP directly or are referred to the program by organizations like the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility or the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners. They may feel hopeless, or close to it, when they first get in touch with a TLAP staff member or volunteer, but, with the proper care, they have been able to turn their lives around.

Rice had some of those success stories on his mind at a recent weekend retreat and CLE session that TLAP hosted at a state park. Looking at the assembled crowd of judges, law students, lawyers, and family members, Rice was struck once again by the importance of TLAP’s mission.

“I looked across the audience and thought, ‘Wow this is why we do what we do,’” he said. “Because we’re restoring happiness and good and meaningful lives back to people who deserve it. Whether judges, attorneys, or law students, they deserve every part of life that is there to be had. We are making a difference one life at a time, one member of the profession at a time.”

The Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program was established in 1999 by the Tennessee Supreme Court with a three-part mission: To PROTECT the interest of clients, litigants and the general public from harm caused by impaired lawyers or judges; To ASSIST impaired members of the legal profession to begin and continue recovery; & To EDUCATE the bench and bar to the causes of and remedies for impairments affecting members of the legal profession.