To become an attorney, people have to go through years of extra school and take on major student loans in many cases. They then have to pass the bar exam to secure licensing to practice the law in a specific state.
The daily work requirements for an attorney are often highly stressful. They may need to handle the pressures of aggressive litigating in the courtroom or the defense of an innocent person, a situation where failure might mean that someone loses their freedom. Between the long hours and intense levels of job-related pressure, it makes sense that some attorneys may turn to chemical crutches to help them cope with the lifestyle that goes with their line of work.
Self-medicating can lead to serious issues. Some lawyers who have a Scotch after work will become functional alcoholics and start drinking more frequently. How big of a concern is alcoholism among lawyers?
Lawyers abuse alcohol at twice the rate of the general public
According to a report by the New York Times, as many as one in three lawyers admit to having a problem with drinking. At first glance, this means that the vast majority of lawyers don’t abuse alcohol, which is a good thing.
However, when you compare that one in three or 33% rate of problem drinking to the national average for alcoholism, which is one in eight or about 13%, you see that attorneys are more likely than the average person to abuse alcohol. Frequent alcohol abuse could affect the representation that an attorney offers their clients.
What alcoholism might mean for a lawyer’s clients
The possible ways for alcohol abuse to affect a legal case are countless. First of all, an attorney drinking during the day might show up to court, mediation or an important meeting while under the influence of alcohol.
Even if the lawyer does not try to work while impaired, drinking might mean that they miss appointments or court dates. Whether they spend too much time at the bar, drink so much they can’t work or have a hangover, their alcohol abuse could negatively affect job performance. They might respond to clients or opposing counsel emails while under the influence, and either make unprofessional statements or fail to recall something they said at a later time.
Anyone who has paid for legal representation and now believes that alcohol diminished the performance of the attorney and affected the outcome of their case could potentially have grounds for a legal malpractice claim against the lawyer for their unprofessional conduct.