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We asked attorneys, legal professionals, and law students in the United States why lawyers drink so much. Their candid responses will make you think about all of the daily pressures that an attorney faces. Some of the individuals below admitted that attorneys begin drinking while at law school. It doesn't matter when attorneys start to drink, it only matters that they don't end up becoming alcoholics due to how they deal with the anxieties and stresses that they endure each day.
Because they have so much trouble passing the bar?
Founder and CEO
Dean's Beans Organic Coffee Co. www.deansbeans.com
You're going to get a ton of answers for this, and I don't have your answer. But as a lawyer in New Orleans, I can tell you that one reason we drink a lot is that it's habit. It starts in law school with bar review parties and no school on Fridays (which leads to Thursday night drinking), and tons of money from student loans that's much more fun to spend on beer rather than drinks.
I guess you could say it's a socially accepted part of the legal community/culture, it starts with law school, and then continues on from there.
Personally, I know that I drink because I like drinking. I don't drink any more or less simply because I'm a lawyer.
Some do, yes there is a lot of stress - deadlines, maintaining a positive reputation, dealing with clients, not ever being able to blame someone else for your shortcomings, wanting to always win and not being able to.So yes drinking can be a way to deal with stress and some lawyers do. But you can also do other things to channel stress more effectively - Bikram yoga helps. Being involved in a classical choral group also helps. You need to find other more positive outlets.
-Rebecca C. Black http://www.rebeccablacklaw.com/
In the last 10 years, this industry has completely been revamped. Thanks to the information age, a lot is now available online, either thru Legal Zoom, Rocketlawyer, or even just the courthouse websites. Meanwhile, there is no loyalty at firms any more, and even partners can and do get laid off every day. You are really only as good as yesterday's sale, and unfortunately none of us got trained in the business of law while in law school. Rather, we were trained to think like lawyers.
50% of the graduating law class from 2013 is still unemployed or underemployed. Many firms have imploded and those that are around are certainly not hiring or paying what they used to. Only about 15% of women will make equity partners at firms, and if you are a minority female, you have less than a 4% chance of being equity partner. These stats were published by NAWL and the ABA recently. Needless to say, this is a depressing picture, and it explains why about 40% of female lawyers will at some point in their careers suffer from depression.
Untreated anxiety and depression often lead to alcoholism, which is essentially a form of self-medicating to ease the pain. These are incredibly difficult times in the legal world, and it truly saddens me to see so many of my peers struggle with alcohol.
-Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.
Family Law Attorney focusing on Custody, Divorce and ADR www.reginademeo.com
Although not yet a full blown lawyer, I'm a law student and can attest that the drinking culture starts in law school -- carrying on into professional practice. A lot of the drinking is due to the stress and isolated nature that law creates.
In law school you're on your own. The schools grade on a curve, which creates a climate where if I help someone else I may make it harder for myself. Plus law is adversarial and hyper-competitive and you have to bottle all of insecurities inside, lest you appear weak. The result is the perfect environment for an alcohol fueled environment. Negative feelings can't be contained forever. Alcohol is way to find release from emotional turmoil resulting from law.
Many attorneys are unhappy with their jobs because of the extreme stress from deadlines set by clients, partners, judges, and filing deadlines that require long uninterrupted hours of sitting at a desk looking up case law and statutes and reading long technical documents. This is why so many lawyers are stressed, depressed, and anxious.
To relieve the pressure associated with the demands of the legal practice, specifically, an unsympathetic and extremely demanding corporate culture, many attorneys turn to alcohol.
-Inna Kraner, Esq.
The Expert Institute www.TheExpertInstitute.com
Not every lawyer drinks to excess; that's just a stereotype. However, the lawyers who drink a lot do so because they are under tremendous pressure to save their client's ass. In this profession there is no preventive care. If someone hires a lawyer they're doing so because they're being sued (or need to sue someone) and a lot of money is at stake.
Think about it: if a lawyer screws up the client could lose their life savings. That's stress!
Shane Fischer, Attorney at Law
I teach substance abuse awareness for organizations. I work with lawyers as a part of the response to drug and alcohol abuse issues. Concerning attorneys who drink, I think there are three primary factors: the stress of their cases (even when they win, their clients aren't always happy about the fees, time spent, bad feelings); the adversarial nature of their work (they are paid to argue, delay, blanket the other side with paper, attack the other side in depositions and trials); and for those who work for firms where they are expected to bill thousands of hours per year, the stress of the time sheet. Further, the profession has a negative connotation from the start - lots of lawyer jokes, not so many plumber jokes. People like to pick on lawyers and they are not always popular. Substance abuse, depression, and suicidality are all well-connected to the profession.
-Dr. Steve Albrecht, PHR, CPP, BCC
Board certified in HR, Security, Coaching www.drstevealbrecht.com
I honestly don't think it's the stress but perhaps numbing the guilt of knowing they freed a criminal for money. Maybe money does not buy the conscious of some people.
If it's social drinking, then I don't think it's stress. I think it's just part of the historical trade culture to meet up with clients and colleagues for drinks. I think it's unique and more effective to meet up with colleagues and clients for other types of activities - a run, a sporting event, or a music event. You have to get to know the client better to arrange these types of activities, which is a great thing.
-Brandon Bruce, JD
Co-founder, Cirrus Insight http://www.cirrusinsight.com
Good question. I started a legal start up called Lawdingo.com which connects people with lawyers online. We have over 1300 lawyers on the platform. I've never been a lawyer, but my suspicion is that lawyers drink a lot because of the following: The job is boring. They want to escape the monotony. The personality type skews neurotic, cerebral, aggressive. Drinking is more common among such personality types. High stress, high pressure. Drinking is used as a de-stressor.
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