Law students, newly-arrived from school, are beginning their professional careers with substance abuse problems worse than we thought. The attorney alcohol abuse rates are climbing, especially for newly practicing lawyers.
A study completed by the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation refuted the previous belief that attorney alcohol abuse rates rose as they continued on in the profession.
In fact, the findings showed the opposite to be true.
Currently, more than 1 in 3 practicing lawyers are problem drinkers. Attorneys in the first ten years of their practice experience the highest attorney alcohol abuse rates at 28.9%. Lawyers practicing for 11-20 years drop to 20.6%, and this percentage continues to fall as more time is spent in the profession.
Interestingly enough, these percentages also correspond to a lawyer’s position in a law firm. Junior associates lead the pack, followed by senior associates, junior partners, and finally senior partners.
The study also found that attorneys working in private firms experience some of the highest levels of problematic alcohol use compared with other legal work environments.
Alarming numbers like these make the legal profession the worst out of all white collar careers for employee mental health and wellness.
There’s no denying that there is a cause for concern, and many are working to combat these attorney alcohol abuse problems. One Illinois group in particular is doing their part to make a change.
The Illinois Lawyers Assistance Program (LAP) currently works to help lawyers, judges, and law students get support for substance abuse, addiction, and mental health problems. However, this group can’t do it alone. The legal profession must work to eliminate the stigma of weakness that comes with seeking help and develop more effective strategies for preventing and addressing substance use problems and mental health concerns. The future of our profession depends on it.