New Study Confirms One Third of Lawyers Have a Problem with Alcohol

Everyone knows the hoary old Paper Chase quote that law professors used to always trot out, right? “Look to your left, look to your right, because one of you won’t be here by the end of the year.” I do not think law schools see one third of their students dropping or flunking out any longer (if they ever did), but the one-in-three statistic is apparently spot on for something else lawyer-related: the percentage of lawyers who have serious problems with alcohol. A big new study of nearly 13,000 attorneys (the largest ever for this sort of thing) co-funded by the ABA and Hazelden, found

36 percent of respondents had results consistent with hazardous drinking or possible alcohol abuse or dependence. That compares to 15 percent of physicians, a group whose substance use has been studied far more extensively, the study says.

Certainly attorneys live in a high-stress high-workload culture, and one that often makes it difficult to ask for help. The same can be said, however, of doctors, which makes that comparison useful and apt.

Some other highlights from the study:

  • 28 percent of attorneys struggle with some level of depression (up sharply from 19% in 1990).
  • 19 percent show symptoms of anxiety.
  • There is a much higher incidence of problem drinking in attorneys in the first 10 years of their career.

The full study is here.

Featured image: “Businessman’s hand pouring vodka into a glass” from Shutterstock.`

Lisa Needham
Lisa Needham is an editor at, helps direct the legal writing program at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, and still believes in the Oxford comma.

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