Legal professionals are at a heightened risk of developing alcohol or substance abuse problems.
A study by the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry reports that the rate of problem drinking for attorneys (18%) is nearly twice that of the general population (10%). More distressingly, lawyers tend to develop substance abuse issues early in their careers, and these problems worsen over time.
Another study finds that 8% of prelaw students, 15% of 1Ls, 24% of 3Ls and 26% of alumni report alcohol problems. Among attorneys practicing 2-20 years, 18% report issues with alcohol; a full quarter of attorneys practicing over 20 years do.
Ignoring your substance abuse problem can have serious consequences for your career. The ABA reports that 27% of disciplinary cases involve attorney alcohol abuse, and the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability attorney assistance program has said that 60% of its client attorneys had malpractice suits filed against them while they were suffering from substance abuse.
Why are legal professionals so vulnerable to substance abuse problems? Stress due to heavy workloads, dealing with clients or high-stakes cases is a factor; so too is the social, drinking culture prevalent in the profession. Lawyers may also suffer from psychological illnesses that can cause or exacerbate substance abuse problems.
If you are a New Hampshire legal professional suffering from substance abuse, please contact the NHLAP confidentially at (877) 224-6060.