Is there a link between attorney substance abuse and malpractice?

If you count yourself among the many people across Florida who have recently hired an attorney, you probably did so with full confidence that the person you chose would advocate on your behalf to the fullest extent possible. Regrettably, however, some attorneys fail to hold up their end of the bargain, and this becomes increasingly common when they abuse alcohol – something that an alarming percentage of them admit to doing.

According to the American Bar Association, 18 percent of today’s practicing attorneys are “problem drinkers,” whereas only 10 percent of the general population meet the same terms. Additionally, attorneys who do drink too much typically continue to do so over time, with 25 percent of attorneys who have practiced for 20 years or longer meeting “problem drinker” criteria.

As you might imagine, abusing alcohol can make it difficult for anyone to keep up with the demands of a profession, and this holds true when it comes to practicing law. In fact, there is a definitive link between alcohol abuse among attorneys and their chances of being the subject of a legal malpractice lawsuit, with about 27 percent of disciplinary cases involving attorneys also involving substance abuse.

Just what is it about the law profession that makes those who work in it so likely to abuse alcohol? Practicing law is inherently stressful, for starters, which can lead many attorneys to drink. Some attorneys choose to drink in an effort to alleviate the intense pressure they may feel to win a case. Other lawyers may drink because they experience high levels of professional “burnout,” or because they regularly hear traumatic stories of clients, which can lead to something called Secondary Traumatic Stress.

This information about attorney substance abuse is informational in nature and does not constitute legal advice.

 

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