Back in the eighties, the popular myth was that all Manhattan attorneys had a leather briefcase, a good blue pen, and a Scarface-sized bowl of cocaine on their desk. Sadly, by the time I got to Biglaw the briefcase had been replaced by a canvas bag with a gaudy firm emblem emblazoned on the side like the mark of the beast. The nice pen was replaced with a desktop computer designed to block The Onion. And the coke was replaced by the marvelous ephedrine they used to put into Red Bull.
But perhaps London attorneys are poised to relive the NYC glory days. A new study reports that hard drug use is on the rise in the U.K.:
One partner claims he knows “people who just make a phone call from their office and nip down to reception to pick up their delivery” — something that happens in every big law firm, he claims.
The survey, by the magazine Legal Business, also says that there is evidence of “cocaine clubs” in law firms’ basements and of partner-led games of poker and taking cocaine with clients. But it also finds that law firms are ignorant or indifferent to the problem. One lawyer is quoted: “I spanked £100,000 on cocaine in one year and no one noticed.
If a partner ever invited me to a coke and poker party I would still be
in rehab a practicing attorney today.
The key similarity between Britain today and the America of yesterday seems to be the total professional indifference to drug use:
The legal profession, unlike other classic professions such as medicine and teaching, does not give a damn, as long as you are profitable.
Well, nobody wants a coked-up doctor trying to save you from a cocaine overdose. And nobody wants a coke-head teaching your kids. But if a little nose candy is going to make you work longer, why would partners particularly care what you do on the side?
Because you could die? Because partners care about your health? Right. You could be the last unicorn and you’d still bill 100 hours a week if there was work to be done.
Substance abuse problems that span the ocean after the jump.
Most lawyers don’t snort the hard stuff, they drink it:
Neil Brener, a consultant psychiatrist with the Priory Group, said: “One eighth of my entire practice is made up of members of the legal procession. Substance abuse is absolutely endemic.”
The findings are backed by statistics from LawCare, a charity that helps lawyers with work-related health problems such as stress, depression and addictive illnesses.
It says 30 per cent of male lawyers and 20 per cent of female lawyers drink to excess.
I’d imagine that 30% of male lawyers and 20% of female lawyers “report” they drink to excess. The actual numbers are probably much, much higher. “I’m not an alcoholic, alcoholics go to meetings.”
But when you are consistently getting off of work after 14 or 18 hour days, when your social life has been leveled by a category 5 hurricane named “My Job,” what are going to do other than go home to your empty apartment and open a bottle of solace?
“Lawyers are in demanding and stressful jobs, working long hours and earning very large salaries,” [Jim Baxter, editor of Legal Business] added. “But unlike banks and other financial institutions, lawyers seem to be left to their own devices.”
Given the market crisis, the supposed sobriety of “banks and other financial institutions” will be put to the test. It could be a race to the bottom of the bottle.
Long hours and stress drive lawyers to drink and drugs [TimesOnline]