Attorneys and Alcohol: Study Shows 1 in 3 Lawyers Have a Drinking Problem

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According to a recent study funded by the American Bar Association, more than one in every three practicing attorneys (36%) has a problem with alcohol.

The study is based on questionnaires submitted by 12,825 practicing attorneys from 19 states.

It defines problem drinking as “hazardous, harmful and potentially alcohol-dependent drinking”

The legal community’s abuse of alcohol is nearly five times higher than the national average.  (A study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that only 6.8% of the general public has a problem with alcohol.)

And the number of drinking disorders among attorneys exceeds almost every other high-level profession. For example, a study conducted by the American College of Surgeons showed that only 15% of the 7,200 doctors surveyed had a drinking problem.

Problems are most prevalent with lawyers in their first ten years of practice.  And associates at large firms are more likely to drink than those who work at smaller offices.

The author of the study, Patrick Krill, believes there may be a “cultural nature” to the problem.

The law has always been a magnet for hard-working, self-reliant, and competitive people who often prioritize success and accomplishment far above personal health or well-being. On top of that, stress, unhappiness and imbalance abound, while unhealthy coping skills such as excessive drinking are the cultural norm — malignant, learned behaviors passed down through the profession with the frequency of a dominant gene.  Stressed? Drink. Not happy? Drink. Happy? Drink, and invite some co-workers. Need to entertain clients? Drink. Work hard, play hard, as the trite mantra goes, and don’t let anyone know if you can’t keep up.

The study also shows an alarmingly high rate of depression and anxiety in the legal profession.  Approximately 28% of lawyers suffer from depress and 19% experience high levels of anxiety.

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