Attorney Articles | Making the Most of Consultations with the CAMFT Staff Attorneys

Articles by Legal Department Staff

The Legal Department articles are not intended to serve as legal advice and are offered for educational purposes only. The information provided should not be used as a substitute for independent legal advice and it is not intended to address every situation that could potentially arise. Please be aware that laws, regulations and technical standards change over time. As a result, it is important to verify and update any reference or information that is provided in the article.

Making the Most of Consultations with the CAMFT Staff Attorneys

CAMFT membership surveys consistently reflect the availability of CAMFT legal staff for telephone consultation regarding legal, ethical, and licensure concerns as one of the most highly valued benefits of CAMFT membership.

Michael Griffin, JD, LCSW, 
Staff Attorney 
November/December 2012

Legal & Ethical Consultation: A Valuable Benefit of Membership 
CAMFT membership surveys consistently reflect the availability of CAMFT legal staff for telephone consultation regarding legal, ethical, and licensure concerns as one of the most highly valued benefits of CAMFT membership. In 2011, CAMFT staff attorneys fielded a total of 23,923 separate requests for telephone consultation from members. As of August 2012, the attorneys have fielded 17,300 separate requests for telephone consultations. As such, CAMFT is aiming to make this experience as seamless and beneficial to the member as possible.

The Consultation Process 
CAMFT members may request consultation with one of the staff attorneys by phoning CAMFT, between the hours of 8:45 am and 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday. As with any business, it is recommended that members try to avoid calling during certain high-call volume periods, such as 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm (daily), Friday afternoons, and Monday mornings.

When a member contacts CAMFT to request consultation, the CAMFT Information Center ("Info Center") will briefly inquire about the nature of the member's call. This allows the Info Center to note the call in the member's record, and to determine whether it may be possible to provide an immediate answer to the member's question. If the question cannot be answered by the Info Center, the call will be forwarded to the next available attorney. Once he or she is connected with one of the staff attorneys, the member will have an opportunity to describe the nature of his or her question or concern and the staff attorney will identify any relevant information or resource which the attorney believes may be of assistance to the member. This may include information from a variety of sources, such as an article in The Therapist or other publication, information on the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) website, a legal decision, or a section of one or more statutes, regulations, or ethical codes which appear to be relevant to the matter.

Key Caveats and Recommendations for a Productive Legal/Ethical Consultation 
During the course of thousands of conversations with members of CAMFT, the legal staff has learned a great deal about what it takes to provide productive consultations to members. The following information describes a number of key recommendations to members of CAMFT regarding the use of legal/ethical consultation.

  1. There are questions that CAMFT attorneys are not able to answer. Generally speaking, this tends to occur if the call concerns subjects that are not directly related to the practice of marriage and family therapy, or when the information is outside of the scope of competence of the CAMFT attorneys. In this case, it will often be suggested that a member seek legal advice from an attorney who specializes in that particular field. 
  2. It is important to understand that the CAMFT staff attorneys are not the attorneys of CAMFT members. Consequently, staff attorneys are unable to provide legal advice to a member or to assist a member with his or her personal legal concerns or problems, even if directly related to marriage and family therapy. While the staff attorney can provide resources or applicable laws that are relevant, the attorney cannot represent the member. For example, staff attorneys cannot review a member's contracts. In addition, the staff attorneys cannot provide advice related to the member's personal family law disputes, IRS problems, speeding citations, or landlord-tenant disputes, etc. In such circumstances, the staff attorney may suggest that a member seek his or her own legal consultation. 
  3. Members should not attempt to provide a client with assistance for the client's legal concerns through the CAMFT staff attorney. Consequently, a member should not contact a CAMFT staff attorney when his or her client is in the room, or request consultation with an expectation that a client will participate in, or benefit from, consultation with the CAMFT attorney. 
  4. Members should contemplate the specific question or issue prior to calling CAMFT. Whenever possible, we suggest that a member take a moment and write down his or her question or concern, before the consultation takes place. In our experience, this simple step can be surprisingly beneficial and will help the staff attorney to spend the maximum amount of time discussing the member's concerns and less time trying to ascertain or clarify the nature of the question that is being asked. The staff attorney is likely to ask one or more questions of a member before the attorney is able to address the member's concern. Such questions are intended to clarify the issues and to gather key information. 
  5. Members should have any relevant or necessary documents at hand, along with a pen and paper, in order to take notes if desired. Such preparation will not only make it easier for a member to discuss his or her question, it will provide useful information for the member to refer to after the call. We understand that therapists are often time-pressured and may want to discuss an important issue at the time that it arises. However, a few minutes spent in preparation will help to save the member valuable time. 
  6. Prior to phoning CAMFT, members should visit to determine whether there may be relevant information regarding the particular question or issue. This suggestion is not intended to discourage a member from calling CAMFT. We simply want our members to know that the CAMFT website contains a wealth of information regarding most of the topics which are discussed during phone consultations with the staff attorneys. Most of the articles on the CAMFT website (with the exception of those found in the current issue of The Therapist) can be accessed without having to enter a password. The search box on the top right corner of the screen is extremely helpful in locating material. In our experience, once a member has had an opportunity to review a pertinent article or resource, that information may resolve a particular question, or it may lead to important, related inquiries. Moreover, it is likely that one or more of the CAMFT attorney-authored articles, or other specialized resource, such as a practice manual or a sample form, etc., located on the CAMFT website, will provide pertinent information about the subject that is of particular concern. Of course, members are always welcome to contact CAMFT to ask specific questions regarding any of the information which is available via the website.
  7. Members are urged to try to call at a time that will permit an undisturbed conversation with the staff attorney. We realize that it isn't always easy to find undisturbed time in a busy schedule, or that an unanticipated interruption may occur during any phone call. However, members are urged to avoid calling from an environment that is not conducive to a serious conversation. For example, calls that are placed from a moving vehicle make it difficult for the staff attorney and the member to clearly hear one-another. When this occurs, a member is often left feeling frustrated and the attorney may find it difficult to understand the nature of a problem, or may be unable to relay the appropriate information to the member. 
  8. A member should inform the attorney if he/she has previously discussed the same issue with a different staff attorney. This helps the staff attorney to better determine what it is that may be helpful to the member and avoids unnecessary confusion. 

Although the foregoing information may seem like a lot to remember, keep in mind that the recommendations are easy to follow once you are familiar with them. The intent is to ensure that every question will be answered in an efficient and effective manner. Of course, in the event that any of this information raises a question or concern, feel free to contact CAMFT and ask to speak with one of the staff attorneys. They'll be happy to assist you.

Michael Griffin, JD, LCSW, is a Staff Attorney at CAMFT. Michael is available to answer member calls regarding legal, ethical, and licensure issues.