Summary: Recent studies reveal that lawyers are the most likely group of professionals to suffer from alcoholism.
It’s a well-known fact that lawyers are some of the most stressed individuals in the country. Whether it’s fighting to climb the law firm ladder or trying to please difficult clients, the job isn’t easy; and sometimes that leads to attorneys looking for an escape from reality. According to CNN, a new study found that lawyers are struggling with depression, substance abuse, and alcoholism; and that suicide rates amongst lawyers has risen significantly. The new study also found that there is a high percentage of practicing attorneys who are alcoholics.
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“Many attorneys are unhappy with their jobs because of the extreme stress from deadlines set by clients, partners, judges, and filing deadlines that require long uninterrupted hours of sitting at a desk looking up case law and statutes and reading long technical documents. This is why so many lawyers are stressed, depressed, and anxious,” The Expert Institute’s managing editor Inna Kraner told LawCrossing. “To relieve the pressure associated with the demands of the legal practice, specifically, an unsympathetic and extremely demanding corporate culture, many attorneys turn to alcohol.”
The American Bar Association and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation surveyed approximately 15,000 working lawyers, who revealed that 21-36% of them drink at levels consistent to alcohol addiction. This rate is 3-5 times higher than the alcohol usage rates of the general population. The results were published in The Journal of Addiction Medicine earlier this year.
“This new research demonstrates how the pressures felt by many lawyers manifest in health risks,” Paulette Brown, the president of the American Bar Association, said to The New York Times.
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The study also discovered that lawyers suffer from similar high rates of anxiety and depression, and CNN said that this explains why lawyers don’t seek help for their issues–they fear harming their reputation.
“As lead author of the study, I can say that I was disheartened by our findings, but not surprised,” Patrick Krill wrote on CNN. “As a lawyer and someone who daily counsels addicted attorneys, judges and law students from around the country, I’ve seen these statistics take human form countless times.”
Krill went on to say that attorneys almost all share the character traits of being “hard working,” “self-reliant,” and “competitive.” He said that excessive drinking was a “cultural norm,” something people did when they were happy, sad, entertaining, or networking.
“I guess you could say it’s a socially accepted part of the legal community/culture, it starts with law school, and then continues on from there,” attorney Andrew Legrand told LawCrossing.
Krill said that the profession has already taken action to address these addiction and Mental Health Issues. He said that some states mandate lawyers take continuing education about behavioral health issues and that some firms have undergone campaigns to promote wellness and have lawyer assistance programs.
How can law firms help attorneys with their mental health issues and alcohol abuse? Let us know in the comments below.