This Week in Legal Ethics– Substance Abuse in the Legal Profession

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LegalEthicsBannerBy Melanie Hodges Neufeld

The March 18th issue of The Lawyers Weekly, available in our Member’s Section, contains the article “Look left, look right, one of you drinks too much”. This article outlines the largest study ever conducted into substance abuse and mental health issues in the American legal profession. “The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorneys” was recently published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, Volume 10, Issue 1.

Some of the study’s findings include:

  • 21 percent of licensed, employed attorneys in the United states qualify as problem drinkers
  • 28 percent of U.S. attorneys struggle with some level of depression
  • 19 percent demonstrate symptoms of anxiety
  • Younger attorneys in the first 10 years of practice exhibit the highest incidence of these problems
  • The study confirms that there is a far higher incidence of alcohol abuse in the legal profession that in other professions

The lead author of the study called the findings “very alarming and proof of an unsustainable professional culture that’s harming too many people”. Comparable statistics have not been compiled for Canada, but the rates are likely similar in Canada.

The article also focuses on lawyer assistance programs throughout Canada. In Saskatchewan, Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers (LCL) is available to assist any Saskatchewan lawyer, articling student, law student or eligible family members with personal and professional problems including alcohol and substance abuse. Please contact LCL or the lawyer assistance program in your jurisdiction if you are facing any difficulties.


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