As this blog and many other law-related publications have reported, a 2016 study sponsored by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association found that more than 20% of lawyers are problem drinkers – a rate that is higher than that of any other profession. The study also showed that those in private practice are at the highest risk, especially associates.
Some firms are now trying to change the drinking culture of the profession through various practical measures, such as bringing in counsellors and reducing the number of alcohol-related firm events, but as law.com reports, the reasons why this phenomenon exists have still not been identified, which continues to make the issue difficult to address.
In an episode of LegalSpeak, an ongoing series of podcasts from law.com, Patrick Krill – the lead author of the 2016 study – spoke with Steven Wall, managing partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius, about Wall’s experience with alcohol abuse – including how he stopped drinking, how he stays sober, and what resources are available to lawyers in similar distress.
“The wakeup call for me,” Wall says, “was when I realized that despite all my efforts at maintaining the image of the successful professional partner in one of the world’s largest law firms, that the cracks were getting bigger and everything else around me was beginning to fail.”
I encourage you to listen it, and to consider implementing some of the strategies it suggests for helping lawyers to minimize stress, and helping those who are suffering to address addiction problems while avoiding the stigma that many struggling alcoholics fear.
I welcome your reactions to this podcast, and your thoughts on any other law-related matter, either in the comments section below or directly via email.