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Alcohol abuse among lawyers

Alcohol use is part of the culture in the legal profession. From the earliest days of law school, men and women seeking a career in law learn that the use of alcohol and other substances are permissible – and often encouraged – methods of dealing with stress as well as for socializing.

The study and practice of law is demanding, and you are well aware of the sacrifices it entails. Because there may be little time for a personal life, you and your colleagues have found yourselves incorporating your business and pleasure through the liberal use of alcohol. Whether your career is young and growing or you are a veteran attorney, abusing alcohol can be detrimental to your life and your license.

Attorneys at risk

The rate of alcoholism in the general population is about 7 percent. However, among 13,000 attorneys screened in a recent study, about 36 percent exhibited behaviors that indicate they are problem drinkers. This translates to about one in every three attorneys struggling with addiction, with the highest numbers among lawyers with less than ten years' experience.

If you are among this group, you may be aware of some of the factors that make it difficult to fight the problem, such as:

  • A high prevalence of depression and anxiety
  • The pressures and long hours of the job
  • Exposure to traumatic stress
  • The inclusion of alcohol in client meetings
  • Frequent morale-building events that include drinking
  • The sense of obligation to join your co-workers after hours for cocktails

If you experienced the intense competition in law school, you may have begun to use alcohol as a way to cope with the pressure. Like many in your chosen profession, your success as a lawyer ranked above any urgency to care for your physical or mental health. Once you began working as an attorney, the pressure did not lessen. In fact, you likely worked long hours for low pay and carried a student loan debt for nearly $100,000. Alcohol seemed like an easy way to lighten that burden.

You may realize that your alcohol use is affecting your job, placing the well-bring of clients at risk and jeopardizing your license to practice. Whether you are already facing disciplinary action with the State Bar of California or you fear it is not far off, the counsel of a compassionate attorney may be able to guide you in the steps you can take to protect your career and regain your health.

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