Owning the Problem

A Closer Look at the Legal Professionals Study

Attorneys in the U.S. have significantly higher rates of problematic drinking and mental health problems than the general population. Many in the profession have suspected this to be true, but the results of a study published in the February 2016 issue of the Journal of Addiction Medicine confirm it in alarming detail.

The study, a collaboration between the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association, is the subject of this webinar. Patrick Krill, JD, LLM, is the director of the Legal Professionals Program at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and co-author of the study. He presents the team's findings, along with recommendations for ways to address this prevalent problem.

Access the on-demand recording of Owning the Problem.

Key Takeaways

  • The study evaluated data collected from 12,825 licensed, employed attorneys and judges from 19 states in the U.S.
  • Respondents represented a wide and representative diversity of races, ages, professional positions, years in the field, private and public practice, and hours worked per week.
  • The survey instruments included the AUDIT 10, a ten-question survey about alcohol use, along with the AUDIT C, a shorter survey about volume and frequency of alcohol use.
  • When the results of both survey tools were taken together, 21-36% of those surveyed qualify as having problematic drinking behaviors. By comparison, only about 7% of Americans were known to have an alcohol use disorder in 2014, while 15% of physicians studied were reported with problematic drinking.
  • A higher percentage of problematic drinking was reported for those working in private firms or for the bar association than among those working in public practice.
  • 14.2% reported that problematic alcohol use began in law school.
  • Being in the early stages of one's legal career is highly correlated with developing an alcohol use disorder: 47.7% reported problematic use began within the first 15 years following law school.
  • Conversely, the longer you are in the profession, the less likely you are to have an alcohol use disorder. This is a reversal of previous findings.
  • The survey revealed that 28% of respondents were experiencing mild, moderate, or severe depression.
  • 61% reported having experienced anxiety during their career, while 11.5% had experienced suicidal thoughts.
  • 37% of those surveyed had received mental health services or treatment while only 7% had received AODA (Alcohol Other Drugs) Services or Treatment.
  • "Lawyers don’t seek help for their behavioral health problems because they fear someone will find out and it will discredit them and possibly affect their license."

Access the on-demand recording of Owning the Problem.

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