Are Lawyers Drinking Too Much?

Many lawyers may recall being told at some point during law school that they were preparing to enter the profession with the highest rate of substance abuse in the county. Now, the National Law Journal reports that lawyers may “suffer addiction at double the rate of the general population.” The Journal states that the ABA and Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation will begin surveying lawyers about addiction, anxiety, and depression to determine the rates at which lawyers suffer from substance abuse and mental illness. This is the first time this type of data will be gathered since 1990.

A 2012 report by Hazelden cited findings that, as of 1990, 18 percent of attorneys had drinking problems, compared to 10 percent for the general population. One-quarter of the attorneys who’d practiced for 20 years or more had an alcohol problem, and lawyers suffering substance-abuse problems were also more likely to face malpractice suits.

Are lawyers really drinking that much? How is this drinking affecting lawyer’s ability to practice law and earn a living? Is this substance abuse, or the underlying cause of the substance abuse, also leading to depression among lawyers?

A separate 1990 study found that lawyers had the highest depression rate among the 105 occupations examined, at above 10 percent.

Knowing the emotional toll practicing law can place on attorneys, it’s not too surprising to see this rate of depression. It will be interesting to see how these rates of drinking and depression change with the new ABA/Hazelden study.

Many lawyers carry Individual or Long Term Disability insurance policies. These policies are one of the tools available to lawyers in their recovery process. Disability insurance policies can give a person financial stability while they focus on their recovery. However, filing disability claims based on substance abuse and depression is often a challenging process. Having an advocate help you navigate the claims filing process allows you to focus on your recovery, which should always be the primary focus of a person who has recognized they are suffering from substance abuse and/or depression.