Earlier this week, a tipster sent us a link to a Greedy Associates post entitled “Why Do Lawyers Drink So Much?” My initial thought was “Ugh.” Honestly, somebody writes that article every three months, and every six months we have to write another version of the same story.

The reasons given for lawyer alcoholism are always the same. “Lawyers are only alcoholic because they’re super TYPE A badasses.” “Lawyers hate their jobs and drink to forget.” “It’s not the law that makes people alcoholics, it’s alcoholics who choose the law!”

I was going to ignore this latest Drunks and the Law story, but then the scotch in my coffee kicked in and I thought, “Hey, isn’t it just that lawyers drink because they can?”

Think about it: being a lawyer is a great job to have if you want to drink as much as possible while also having a job…

Here’s my premise: being a “functional alcoholic” is the best kind of function and the best kind of alcoholic. Functional alcoholics get to do fun things like hang out with their friends, get hammered and hook-up with random people, then claim they “don’t remember” it in the morning. But they also get to hold onto their jobs, have relationships, and, of course, they don’t have to go to meetings.

Assuming for a second that functional alcoholism represents a happy balance between having fun and holding down a job, name me careers that are more conducive to that lifestyle than being a lawyer. It’s not like you can be a firefighter who rolls into work in the morning with your blood alcohol level set to “flammable.” Go ahead and try to be the emergency room physician who is holding a tray of shots when the beeper goes off because some stupid attorney drunk drove himself into a tree.

I’m not saying these people can’t go out for drinks, I’m saying that they can’t really “function” in their positions while also being alcoholics.

Lawyers, on the other hand, can drink while working! They can keep a bottle of whiskey in their desk drawers for “late nights.” They can come into work (not at 7:00 a.m., not at 8:30 a.m.) at 10-something, hungover like they got tequila injected into their spinal cord, and muddle through the morning. They can take two hours to do something a well-rested person would finish in 30 minutes… and charge people for the extra time!

Functional alcoholism is particularly easy for Biglaw lawyers to achieve. Everything you do, you have an opportunity to double check (to say nothing of the junior lawyers and support staff who will review the document as well). The “function” just means you have to know the few hours every couple of days you have to be stone sober and alert. “Sorry guys, I can’t hit the strip club after I get out of here tonight because I have a client meeting in the morning.” “Sure, I can do kegs and eggs Sunday morning, but I’ve got to wrap it up before the late football game because my Monday is a killer.”

Obviously, some people fall off the “functional” wagon and devolve into straight alcoholism. And that’s sad. But is that really just because they are “lawyers” or simply because of the law of averages? A lot of writers are functional alcoholics (or just plain alcoholics) because their jobs allow for that kind of flexibility. But try being a research chemist who is constantly confusing his experiments with his brewery.

People assume that there’s some kind of “natural” level of intoxication that is healthy and reasonable. I think that people will have as much “fun” as they can get away with. Being a lawyer doesn’t leave a lot of time for traditional enjoyment, but you can pretty much drink with impunity without significantly hurting your job performance. There aren’t a lot of professions where that’s possible.

P.S. If you are a lawyer with an alcohol problem and need help, here are some resources to check out (via FindLaw).

Why Do Lawyers Drink So Much? [Greedy Associates / FindLaw]


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