Lawyers who have been in the business long enough know that substance abuse is not uncommon within this profession. This is a high-pressure job, and the overall culture does not allow lawyers to speak about it due to fear of losing one’s standing within the community.
A Movement for Change
Mental illness and substance abuse in this profession is finally being properly addressed, and it is being done by organizations, like the Lawyer Well-Being group based out of West Virginia, and the movement is growing.
There are more than 20 states participating and finding a way to help lawyers who may be suffering from stress and could be abusing some kind of substance. The Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being has formed a toolkit meant to help employers and lawyers navigate this serious issue in a way that does not affect their respected status.
A lawyer should not be punished for falling victim to something like this, but that does not mean this attorney does not need immediate help.
Why Does This Happen to Lawyers?
The idea that lawyers are abusing substances may sound odd. The question on many people’s minds is how passionate, trusted individuals who have things like Lawyers of Distinction membership could fall, and it is a good question to ask.
There is no real way to answer because there is no answer that could satisfy. The following are some reasons lawyers may be susceptible to substance abuse beyond the pressure of the job mentioned earlier:
Alcohol is Just Part of It
Lawyers are expected to mingle with others and network. The way people in this profession mingle is through functions, where alcohol is served. You are almost expected to drink with the other people.
The problem is that some individuals can drink without any problems, but people with other issues, such as anxiety, can let alcohol consumption become more than just a social habit. This is definitely one reason some people become a victim of substance abuse.
Fear of the Association
Clients, other lawyers, and even judges expect a lot from a lawyer. In essence, they hold lawyers up on a pedestal. It is hard for any person to live up to others expectations.
Everyone reading this is human and can make mistakes, but lawyers are sometimes not afforded this opportunity. Worse of all, substance abuse is not looked at for what it is: a disease but rather a mere mistake. This mistake can make a lawyer look untrustworthy, and it could end up ruining a career. It is this harsh reality that makes it hard for lawyers to ask for help when they really need it.
There is no telling how this issue is going to be solved, but at least a group of lawyers who probably have Lawyers of Distinction membership have begun to make decisive steps towards helping each other out with this task force. Hopefully, their efforts continue to yield the great results this organization is already seeing.