Drinking, Technology

NY State Bar Wants to Help All the Alcoholic Lawyers Out There

The New York State Bar Association wants to avoid this.

Attorneys tend to be a work-hard, play-hard bunch. After all those long days, it can feel really nice to unwind with a Manhattan at the end of the day. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

That said, nobody wants to end up like Paul Newman’s character in The Verdict, a washed-up, alcoholic ambulance chaser. And it turns out the New York State Bar Association doesn’t want that either.

Last month, the association launched a new online portal for New York attorneys and law school students struggling with alcohol or drug addiction….

The online Lawyer Assistance Program, eLAP for short, was created after the state court system suspended the New York State Lawyer Assistance Trust program because of state budget cuts. “The program made $1.3 million available for drug and alcohol treatment and other services for attorneys in the 2010-11 fiscal year,” according to an article at Law.com. The site is free and confidential for any attorney or student in New York, although you do have to create a user account. It has links to supposedly 2,000 articles about addiction, as well as online chat support. The article reports that eLAP is the expansion of a phone line that gets about three calls each week.

Hooray for good intentions. As we’ve recently seen from this DLA Piper partner and this law school party, members of the legal profession sometimes overindulge.

Actually, attorneys overindulge a lot. A Guardian story from Saturday said, “Research suggests 15-24% of lawyers will suffer from alcoholism during their careers.” That’s almost a quarter of the profession, and a lot higher than the general population.

Why are lawyers so hammered all the time? Our own Elie Mystal has one theory: “If doctors or pilots drink, they kill people. If CEOs or accountants drink, they lose tons of money. If lawyers drink, they… have to proofread their work in the morning? Lawyers drink because they can, if you could drink more, you probably would.” Roger Sterling from Mad Men would most certainly agree.

And, obviously, law firm offices are not usually the kinds of places to candidly discuss and find support for intense personal issues.

The New York site has a lot to offer, including chat support and tutorial-type videos for dealing with substance abuse, but some aspects of it seem a bit strange. Like this four question self-test to assess your drinking habits:

1. Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?

2. Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?

3. Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?

4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover?

The specificity of the last question kind of comes out of nowhere. And anyone who’s ever had a nasty hangover has answered “Yes” to the first and third questions. But some help is better than none.

On the other hand, it is Monday evening, and I could really go for a beer right now.

Alarm at growing addiction problems among professionals
[The Guardian UK]
N.Y. State Bar Opens Online Portal to Assist Attorneys With Addictions [Law.com]

Christopher Danzig is a writer in Oakland, California. He covers legal technology and the West Coast for Above the Law. Follow Chris on Twitter @chrisdanzig or email him at cdanzig@gmail.com. You can read more of his work at chrisdanzig.com.

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